Laura Hipp

Gov. Tate Reeves has named Laura Hipp as interim director of the Mississippi Development Authority after John Rounsaville resigned amid allegations he sexually harassed and touched three subordinate female MDA employees.

Hipp, former communications director for Reeves when he served as lieutenant governor, had been serving as chief marketing officer and senior adviser at MDA. She served as communications director for former Gov. Haley Barbour, and was a longtime journalist, including as a political reporter for the Clarion Ledger and Austin Business Journal in Texas.

Reeves on Tuesday announced Hipp’s appointment on Twitter and said, “My confidence in her to execute my vision will lead to economic growth and continue Mississippi’s momentum.”

In a statement, Hipp said: “I am grateful for this opportunity from Gov. Reeves, and the MDA team will continue to build on its success bringing jobs to Mississippi’s communities and attracting tourists to wander through our state and see all it has to offer.”

READ MORE: Gov. Reeves now says MDA chief is on administrative leave following article detailing sexual misconduct allegations

READ MORE: Sexual misconduct allegations led to MDA director John Rounsaville’s resignation

MDA is the state’s lead economic and community development agency. As agency director, Hipp will oversee a staff of about 300 employees. MDA 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.

Hipp has a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas Tech University.

Rounsaville announced his resignation earlier this month — effective Aug. 31 — after a state investigation into reports he sexually harassed and touched three subordinate female MDA employees at a Biloxi bar during a business conference in July.

Reeves had appointed Rounsaville as permanent MDA director in January after he had served as interim since May of 2020.

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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.