Leadership Matters!

By:  Leland Speed

Former Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), 2004-2006, 2011-2012

Founder, Chairman Emeritus of EastGroup Properties


Contrary to what some politicians would have you believe, Mississippi is not headed in the right direction. Folks, LEADERSHIP MATTERS – this runoff election is about choosing a chief executive for the state that will meet challenges head-on, deal with tough problems, and not dismiss them in an election year with placating campaign rhetoric.


Our labor force is not moving in the right direction. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, our labor force has declined by 60,000 people over the last eight years. The number of working Mississippians has decreased by 2,000 over the last eight years. 


Our unemployment rate is not moving in the right direction. Instead of going down, Mississippi’s unemployment rate has steadily increased since January and is the second highest unemployment rate in the country, save only for Alaska. 


The number of Mississippians receiving government assistance for their health care and the cost for it is not moving in the right direction. Our Medicaid and CHIP enrollment has grown by 8,000 since January 2012. Our state spends BILLIONS with managed care companies that are contracted to achieve better healthcare outcomes for this population, yet we rank as the second unhealthiest state in the country.


Need I point out how bad our highways, roads, and bridges are? To see this, you only need to take a drive anywhere in our state and you’ll encounter a “Road Closed” or “Bridge Out – Detour” sign – unless you hit a pothole first and have a flat tire! Sustained economic development does not happen without good infrastructure.


In short, Mississippi has fewer people working, fewer people in the labor force, an increasing rate of unemployment, poor health, and a crumbling infrastructure system.


And here’s a little secret, under the watchful eye of our “fiscally conservative” Lieutenant Governor, state government spending isn’t moving in the right direction either. We’ve appropriated $1 billion more from the state general fund than we did eight years ago and we’re spending millions more on our loan payments than we did eight years ago too. In fact, paying the debt service on all the money we’ve borrowed is the third highest state fund expenditure. 


When some politicians tell you that they’ve reduced spending in Jackson, that’s just not the truth. You don’t spend $1 billion dollars more by telling lobbyists and insiders “no”. In Mississippi there’s a saying for those who are all talk and no action, “All hat, no cowboy.”


What do we have to show for all that borrowing and spending? A suspect education system, a crumbling infrastructure, a population with health care conditions that rank among the worst in the country and one politician with millions of dollars in his campaign acquired from telling people “no”.


GOP conservative titans and business leaders such as Billy Mounger, Billy Powell, Mike Retzer, and George Schloegel recognize that we need a leader with integrity who can offer thoughtful solutions to grow Mississippi for the better. That’s why these stalwarts are backing Bill Waller for Governor. If you want the status quo then Tate Reeves offers you that choice.


Just remember, President Ronald Reagan once said, “Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’”



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Bill Waller for Governor campaign

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