January 10, 2011 3:13:00 PM
JACKSON - Larry "Butch" Brown says his health concern - not a string of controversies - was the major factor in his decision to retire as executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Brown is battling prostate cancer for the third time. Doctors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, will perform surgery Jan. 21. Tests will then be done to determine if the cancer has spread, Brown said.
"My personal health issues have given me pause to change the direction of my life," the 67-year-old Brown said Monday during a news conference at MDOT headquarters in Jackson.
"If I have a complication from surgery," Brown said later. "I don''t want to spend my time at work. I want to spend my time on a better quality of life."
During the past 10 years, Brown says $6 billion in road and highway projects have been completed or are under way throughout Mississippi.
Brown said the transition process will begin with Tuesday''s meeting of the three-member elected Mississippi Transportation Commission. Brown said he''ll meet with Gov. Haley Barbour on Thursday.
In recent months, Brown''s behavior has drawn negative publicity. He was arrested at the Beau Rivage Casino in July and charged with public intoxication. In November, Brown agreed to anger management classes and, in return, the city of Biloxi would drop a public intoxication charge.
Brown said the incident was a misunderstanding and he was neither drunk nor disorderly. He was unapologetic about the incident on Monday.
"I''m Butch Brown. I''m from a river town. That''s how we act," Brown said.
Brown, a former Natchez mayor, faced an uncertain future with MDOT. Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor, a Brown ally, died Nov. 1 and a special election was scheduled for Tuesday in the northern district to replace him. Many of the candidates in that race had called for a change of leadership at MDOT.
In addition, Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown, no relation, announced in December he would not seek re-election.
And Butch Brown has often been at odds with Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall. Hall and others have criticized him for excessive spending, travel and management style.
Hall said Brown''s departure could come sooner.
"He serves at the will and pleasure of the commission, pure and simple. His press conference was a surprise. I didn''t know anythinig about it," Hall said. Monday. "After the new commissioner is sworn-in we will have that discussion, and a decision will be made about replacing Brown."
Two years after Brown''s 2002 confirmation as MDOT director for the first time, he was fired by a vote of the commissioners. He was reinstated six weeks later when a new commissioner took office. He has served since that date.
At his confirmation hearing in 2009, Brown defended his use of department stationery to write letters in 2004 and 2006 asking the state Parole Board to release Douglas Hodgkin, who was convicted of capital murder in the death of a University of Mississippi student who was raped, sodomized and strangled in Oxford in 1986.
Brown said he sent the letters because he knows and likes Hodgkins'' father, a banker in Kentucky.
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