Bryant appoints several state agency directors

January 10, 2012 12:23:00 PM





Associated Press 


JACKSON -- Phil Bryant's administration is going to look at least a little like outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour's administration. 


Among 10 agency heads that the governor-elect named Monday, a day before his inauguration, six are holdovers from fellow Republican Barbour's administration, and a seventh returns to the position that he once held. 


"The one thing I wanted to do is have a good mixture if those who have served, who have that experience in the past, and those who will lead us into the future," Bryant said after the announcement. 


Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz, Bureau of Narcotics director Marshall Fisher and Department of Finance and Administration director Kevin Upchurch are keeping their jobs.  


Trudy Fisher remains as director of the Department of Environmental Quality, and Bill Walker remains as head of the Department of Marine Resources. 


Robert Latham, a previous director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, returns to the job he held for six years. He started the job in 2000, under Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, and left during the Barbour administration in 2006, several months after Hurricane Katrina struck. 


Bryant's new appointees include Dr. David Dzielak (JELL-ick) at Medicaid, Mark Henry at the Department of Employment Security and Rickey Berry at the Department of Human Services. 


Last week, Bryant named Jim Barksdale as interim head of the Mississippi Development Authority. Bryant also said Monday that he intends to name as his chief of staff Kirk Sims, who was policy director while Bryant was lieutenant governor and helped run Bryant's campaign. Bryant's single term as lieutenant governor ended last week. 


Henry, an attorney and longtime Republican, served as chief of staff during Bryant's term as lieutenant governor and also worked for Bryant when he was state auditor. 


Dzielak has helped run research efforts at the University of Mississippi Medical Center since 1991. During his tenure, research funding at the medical center quadrupled. Dzielak, a cardiovascular physiologist, also helped win funding for a new research building on the Jackson campus. 


Mississippi's Medicaid program is challenged by rising medical costs and tight funds, including an expiring $60 million bed tax that helps pay for it. Though Dzielak has no direct experience in the state-federal medical program for poor people, he said he hoped to bring his administrative experience to the challenge. He noted that his position at the medical center in large part consisted of raising money for research. 


"I had to figure out how to pay for it," Dzielak said. 


Epps, now the longest-serving state prisons chief in the nation, said he still had goals that he wanted to accomplish at the Department of Corrections, including achieving a goal of early releases for old and infirm inmates who are costly for the prison system to care for. 


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