Gov. Tate Reeves’ Chief of Staff Brad White, a former chairman of the state Republican Party, has been chosen to run the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
“Brad has a proven track record in managing governmental affairs on the federal level as well as the state level,” Transportation Commission Chairman Tom King said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge of the legislative process and staff management. He will certainly be an asset to MDOT and we look forward to working with him to move Mississippi’s transportation infrastructure forward.”
White was chosen by the three-member, elected Transportation Commission, and is subject to confirmation by the state Senate. Last month, Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons reported that the commission had received five applications for the job, all from people in state.
Other applicants included Jeff Altman, a longtime MDOT employee who’s been serving as interim director of the agency, and Heath Hall, owner of a public relations firm who has served as a consultant to Madison County and its sheriff’s department. Hall was briefly deputy administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration but abruptly resigned after being accused of improperly being paid by the federal agency and Madison County at the same time.
White formerly served as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and the late Sen. Thad Cochran. He was formerly a chief of staff for the state auditor’s office and served as chairman of the state Republican Party from 2008 to 2011. He served as an assistant to former Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall from 1999-2005.
In a statement, White said, “I feel in some ways like I’m coming home. MDOT has always been a special place for me. I look forward to what we can accomplish together working with the Transportation Commission and MDOT staff.”
In a recent interview with Mississippi Today, White said both his prior experience with MDOT and in dealing with transportation issues and funding on a federal level in U.S. Senate offices have prepared him for the job.
White replaces longtime MDOT Director Melinda McGrath, who announced her resignation in March under political fire from state lawmakers. Lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, have been critical of MDOT for cost overruns, delays on projects and other issues and proposed a bevy of legislation this session aimed at stripping the agency of money and authority. Lawmakers stripped MDOT of its commercial traffic enforcement division.
On Wednesday, White said it is his intention for Altman, who had been serving as assistant to McGrath, to stay on at the agency, but that he had not yet met with Altman.
Reeves in a social media post congratulated White and MDOT, and said, “It’s a new day in our state! And it’s a great day for transportation and economic development in Mississippi!”
“The last 17 months have been the most difficult of my professional career,” Reeves wrote. “One storm (literal and otherwise!) after another … The one person that has been there helping us navigate this difficult terrain since literally the day after Election Day is Brad White. My chief of staff since Day 1 but my friend long before that. I couldn’t be more proud of him for this new challenge he has accepted.”