By Katherine R. Dougan
By unanimous votes at their November 2 meeting, the Board of Aldermen approved of hiring both a congressional lobbyist and a grant writer for the City. Both positions were budgeted for Fiscal Year 2021-22, and City leaders say the efforts of the two positions should yield funds for the City for projects.
Mayor Phil Fisher said that grant writing is something the City needs “to be into more deeply than we have been in an effort to try to get money for the City for various things.” He submitted DeAnna Dillard’s name for the position, and the Board voted 6-0 (Ward 3 Alderman Willian O. Barnett was absent) to hire her for a fee of $18,000.
Fisher said the Board has talked on and off for a while about hiring a lobbyist for the City, and he submitted the name of retired U.S. Representative Gregg Harper, a Republican who served as the U.S. Representative for Mississippi’s 3rd congressional district from 2009 to 2019. The City lobbyist salary will be $72,000 per year.
Fisher said he went last week to Washington, D.C. with WGK Engineering’s Greg Gearhart to request $97 million for the Big Black Regional Sewer Project. The City is required by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to tap a new source to discharge treated wastewater by 2030. Gearhart is a partner and lead environmental engineer with the City’s consulting engineering firm, WGK Engineers & Surveyors. Fisher said the City needs someone in Washington to follow up on the request, to “stay on the proper people, to talk to who[m]ever needs to be talked to, and to juggle that ball for us … None of us have the knowledge and expertise to know what to tell them.”
The Board voted 7-0 to hire Harper.