Col. Gregory S. Michel will take over the head of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency as the state enters the heart of hurricane season.

Gov. Phil Bryant announced Monday that he had appointed Michel, the former commander of the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Hattiesburg, as director the state’s primary emergency response agency.

In a news release, the governor said Michel would assume his new duties immediately.

“Col. Michel brings a wealth of experience to MEMA as we enter the heart of hurricane season,” Bryant said. “He served well the people of Mississippi and our nation for almost three decades as a member of our National Guard, defending our freedom and ensuring our national security at home and abroad. I am certain that service will continue in his new role, and I am delighted he has accepted this appointment.”

Michel enlisted in the National Guard in 1988 in his hometown of McComb and served numerous roles, including being on active duty in Iraq with the 155th Infantry Battalion.

Lee Smithson resigned as director of MEMA last month citing alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder as the reasons for his resignation.

J.W. Ledbetter, the governor’s senior criminal justice policy adviser, had been serving as the interim director.

“I am both humbled and honored to accept this assignment from Governor Bryant as director, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency,” said Michel who now resides in Ridgeland. “I love Mississippi and the people that make Mississippi what it is. Mississippi is home.

“To have responsibility for their safety in times of emergency is significant, and I do not take that responsibility lightly. I am proud to serve Mississippi in this role and look forward to working with the great team of men and women at MEMA.”

MEMA has a budget of $3.7 million for the current fiscal year – an increase of $587,967 or 18.9 percent over what the Legislature budgeted for the past year.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.