Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday appointed John Rounsaville as permanent Mississippi Development Authority director after Rounsaville served as interim since May.

Rounsaville joked that he first thought Reeves named him interim director of the state’s economic development agency during the COVID-19 pandemic so he could blame Rounsaville if the state economy “flopped.”

“2020 was not a flop,” Rounsaville said. “We had $1.6 billion in new capital investment, 30% above 2019’s capital investment … and more than 5,000 new jobs were committed to Mississippi … We are definitely moving the needle forward despite the challenges.”

MDA is the state’s lead economic and community development agency, and employs about 300 people. It works to recruit new businesses to the state and retain and expand existing industry and manages the state’s energy programs. MDA also promotes Mississippi as a tourism destination.

Rounsaville replaces Glenn McCullough Jr., who served as MDA director under former Gov. Phil Bryant from 2015 through January of last year.

“(Rounsaville) has done an excellent job in his interim capacity,” Reeves said Tuesday. “He’s earned the respect of Mississippi business leaders across the state.”

Rounsaville most recently served as state director for USDA Rural Development for the President Trump administration, a post he also held from 2006 to 2008 under President George W. Bush. Rounsaville served as deputy chief of staff and other roles for former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering and as policy adviser to former Gov. Haley Barbour.

Rounsaville is a decorated military veteran and currently serves as a JAG and major at the 186th in the Mississippi Air Force National Guard. He is a master’s graduate of Mississippi State University and received a law degree from the University of Mississippi. Rounsavilee and his wife, Laura, live in Madison with their two sons.

Reeves and Rounsaville said Mississippi has economically fared better than most states amid the pandemic, and the governor noted that the state ranks third-best in the nation for job recovery from the pandemic.

“We opened up our economy more quickly and more fully than most other states,” Reeves said.

Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.