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Mayor honored for leadership

Various recovery work conducted after Hurricane Katrina did not go unnoticed at a coastal awards breakfast.

Two members of the Picayune community were recognized for their leadership work after Hurricane Katrina, but since one of those candidates is a political figure, he was not eligible to win the award for which they were nominated.

Each year the Sun Herald hosts an event to honor community leaders and to honor business owners under 40 in the gulf coast area. Ricky Matthews, publisher for the Sun Herald and The Journal of South Mississippi Business, said there were about 530 people at this year’s event, the most in its history.

During the event, Picayune Mayor Greg Mitchell and former city employee Glade Woods were recognized for being nominated as the top community leaders for 2006. Mitchell said he was nominated by Woods and Woods was nominated by the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce. Woods currently is working with the Northern Gulf Institute. This was the first time Mitchell was nominated, he said.

After the storm, the Mississippi Gulf Coast went through a great deal of adversity and that adversity brought Gov. Haley Barbour and his wife closer to the people of the Gulf Coast area, Marsha Barbour said.

Gov. Barbor said as the storm approached, though, he was worried about the lack of concern coast residents displayed. The last few major hurricanes threatened the area but did relatively little, leaving people along the Mississippi Gulf Coast with a false sense of security. Barbour said he had to do something to get those people to prepare, so he asked the media to tell the residents that Katrina would be the next Camille.

“Lord knows I didn’t have any idea it would be worse than Camille,” Barbour said.

In a conversation following the breakfast, Mitchell said he would like to focus on accommodating the increased growth taking place in and around the City of Picayune.

Mitchell said he has some ideas he would like to see implemented to help the city grow, but those things could be years away. The mayor believes all of his plans will help to increase development in Picayune.

The first idea he shared concerned expanding East Canal Street to possibly three lanes and installing street lights down the length of the street. Those improvements will lead to increased development in that area. His second idea consisted of building an overpass from Memorial Boulevard over the railroad tracks to Main Street. Mitchell gave pre-storm estimated costs for the project of $16 to $20 million. The mayor said with all the growth the city has seen, he expects to get some federal grants to help fund some of the projects, since he expects the federal government to take into consideration the impact the growth caused by Hurricane Katrina has had on the city.

The long-delayed expansion of U.S. 11 was also on his list. If the expansion does take place, then the city and the Mississippi Department of Transportation would have to enter a joint agreement to expand the bridge across the Hobolochitto Creek, Mitchell said.