Brad White (above at center), executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, recently joined the agency’s “Extra Mile” podcast to discuss the “top priorities” of the Mississippi DOT as the state’s legislature convenes for its 2024 session.
[Above photo by Mississippi DOT]
“The first session of every term is four months, scheduled to be a 120 day session, getting everyone a little bit of extra time so everyone can get settled and do their work,” White said on the podcast.
White noted that his focus during this legislative term is on what he calls a “big ticket item” and that is the reoccurring revenue needs of the Mississippi DOT.
“This is going to take a lot of leadership on the part of those under the capitol dome to address,” he stressed. “We need to be willing to step up and say, ‘How are we going to provide going forward funding for this core function of government?’ As you know, for decades, we have primarily been funded by the fuel tax. I think that is an antiquated system. I think that the legislature is unable to raise enough to properly take care of all the [transportation] needs that we have.”
White feels that Mississippi’s legislature needs to take a “fresh approach” to find a new solution to that funding issue.
“In today’s economy, it has to be a diversified revenue stream from different sources instead of just one; funding that can deal with the ebbs and flows of the market,” he said. “I’ve talked to legislators about using unobligated gaming revenue, or using other tax revenue that is currently unobligated. Last year that generated $300 million. I make the argument that that money could be put to good use here [at Mississippi DOT] to build the projects our state needs, without us having going back to the legislature every year for one-time use money.”
White also talked about the leadership reorganization at Mississippi DOT on the podcast that began in late 2023, with long-time agency staff member stepping up to take on new roles. For example, Jim Willis – former assistant chief engineer for operations – is director of the newly formed Office of Intermodal Planning and Highway Operation, with Janie Bass replacing him; Lee Frederick becoming director of preconstruction–engineering and Trudi Loflin serving as director of preconstruction-program management; and Earl Glenn to the position of chief engineer at the agency.
“I am really excited about the new team we’ve got in place in Mississippi DOT now,” he said. “I especially look forward to the accountability and sense of urgency Earl brings to the table to get our mission at the department accomplished.”
[The Mississippi DOT also named several new division directors at the start of 2024 as well: Jessica Dilley will serve as director of the Alternative Program Deliveries Division; Don Drake will serve as director of the Right of Way Division; Trung Trinh will serve as director of the Ports and Waterways Division; and Mitchell Young will serve as State Local Public Agencies (LPA) engineer, leading the LPA Division.]
“I think as our legislature has started investing more into the multimodal aspect of what we do as a department of transportation – remember, we are not the old highway department anymore – that will allow us to move faster in to the future and remake that aspect of what Mississippi DOT does in those [modal] areas,” White said.
“I feel real good about where we are; I think we have a good group of people together,” he added. “I am excited about what the future has for us.”