Annual training for town officials
Wesson Mayor Alton Shaw, Town Clerk Angela Hester, Public Works Director Brad Turner and Aldermen
joined similar officials from across the state at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center in Biloxi for three days of information-sharing, training and networking at the Mississippi Municipal League’s (MML) 92nd Annual Conference.
Since 1931, MML has been the official non-profit private organization of Mississippi cities and towns that lobbies the state and federal legislatures, provides education for municipal elected officials and technical support, represents 293 municipalities with public and private entities, and is a networking media for municipal members. It was established in 1931.
At this year’s conference, titled “Get in the Game: A Playbook for Municipal MVPs,” the League celebrated 92 years of service to Mississippi's cities and towns. An estimated 2,500 municipal elected officials, municipal employees, state agency representatives, legislators, exhibitors, and others attended the annual event.
Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker, elected by MML membership as the organization’s second vice president in 2021, rotated into its top leadership post this year as president, following in the footsteps of previous Mayors of the town, Ed Morgan and Johnny Dupree. ascended to its presidency this year added a new title to his resume this week: President.
“Leading this organization is not a role I take lightly,” Barker said. “We’re at a critical time in our state where cities and residents need vocal leaders who will work hard on their behalf. With the unprecedented availability of federal and state-based infrastructure funds and a strong need for continued legislative support, I look forward to working with our executive team to move our state forward.”
At the event, state and federal agencies provided speakers for the educational sessions, including the Attorney General's office, State Auditor's office, Mississippi Development Authority, Mississippi Planning and Development Districts and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, among others. They covered state law updates, grant opportunities. medical marijuana, municipal liability issues, community and economic development, infrastructure funding, disaster recovery, and water and sewer issues. Attendees also heard stump speeches of candidates running for Mississippi 's governor and lieutenant governor and other statewide offices.
Of special interest to Wesson officials were presentations on federal funds related to wastewater infrastructure and Mississippi rural water.
More than 200 municipal officials, including Wesson Aldermen Mike King and Larry Harry, graduated from MML’s Certified Municipal Official program, 2023 Municipal Excellence Awards were presented, a new members of the 2023 Municipal Hall of Fame were inducted in a special ceremony and an expo show showcased more than 150 businesses, state agencies, and other organizations.
Also at the conference, Town Clerk Hester was named an executive trustee representing the Central Central District for the Mississippi Municipal Clerks and Collectors Association and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation honored the Town of Wesson as a “Healthy Hometown,” and awarded it a $100,000 grant.
Wesson Police Chief Chad O’Quinn also attended the annual conference of the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP), which coincided with the MML conference at Biloxi. It is MACP’s primary educational conference, providing Chiefs and upper-level law enforcement executives the opportunity to receive required twenty hours of instruction.
Wide-ranging speakers included Child Protective Services Commissioner Andrea Sanders, Dr. Mark Whitman on burnout, Norm Comeaux on State and Federal Supreme Court rulings, Medical Marijuana program directors Pat Dally and Angie Calhoun, Michael Warren on 21st Century police training and Kennedy Meaders on de-escalation. A special session explored current FBI-CJIS capabilities.
At a trade show, attendees interacted with vendors of various types of equipment and technology available for law enforcement today. There was also plenty of time for social interaction between Chiefs in an information-sharing format designed to exchange ideas and talk of common problems/solutions.