Shad White, 32, a former Rhodes Scholar and Harvard law school graduate, was appointed Friday by Gov. Phil Bryant to replace outgoing state Auditor Stacey Pickering.
“He is a millennial who came back from Oxford England” where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar and earned a master’s degree in economics history, the governor said. Bryant added that he was influenced by the fact that White turned down the potential “of earning a lot of money in New York” to return to his native Mississippi and engage in public service.
White had previously worked for the governor, including managing his 2015 re-election campaign, and was currently serving as the director of the conservative-leaning Mississippi Justice Institute and lead attorney for the Mississippi Center for Public Policy. He also is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and was appointed as a special prosecutor in Rankin County.
“Shad’s credentials and ability are without question,” Bryant said. “He has proven himself a champion of limited and efficient government that serves the taxpayers. He is the perfect fit for this important office, and I am pleased he has accepted this appointment.”
Bryant made the announcement Friday at the Governor’s Mansion — in the same room where in October 1996 then-Gov. Kirk Fordice named Bryant, a state House member from Rankin County, to fill the vacant auditor’s post.
Bryant acknowledged the symmetry, though, in 1996 Bryan previously had run for elected office. White has never run for public office. White said his last successful campaign was for class favorite at Northeast Jones High School in 2003. His next campaign will be in 2019 for a full four-year term as auditor – one of eight statewide elected posts in Mississippi.
“I’m honored by the faith Gov. Bryant has placed in me with this appointment,” said White, a native of tiny Sandersville where his father is the mayor and is the person he said taught him the importance of public service.
He added, “I’m looking forward to being the watchdog of (taxpayers’) hard-earned dollars. I’ve committed to the governor and will commit to Mississippians that I’ll bring every ounce of energy I have and whatever talent God gave me to do this the right way.
“I’ll always tell you the truth, even if the truth is uncomfortable. I’ll always treat our public officials fairly, and I’ll do everything in my power to make sure Mississippi’s future is free from corruption.”
White acknowledged he approached the governor about the vacancy created when Pickering, a fellow Jones Countian, resigned to become executive director of the state’s Veterans Affairs Board. The governor said other seasoned politicians expressed interest in the position of auditor, but he believed that White was “uniquely qualified” for the post.
Since 1996, just four statewide elected officials had resigned before their terms had expired. Three of those four times, Mississippi governors filled those spots with other elected officials.
Bryant also bucked convention in April by appointing Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran.
White is the youngest statewide officer in recent memory. Ray Mabus was 35 in 1983 when he was elected to the post of auditor, as was Mike Moore when he was elected attorney general in 1987. Dick Molpus was 34 when he was elected secretary of state in 1983.