Connie Moran was six weeks into her first public-office position as the mayor of Ocean Springs when her world turned upside down. Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed her coastal town, displacing residents and razing homes. Leading residents through the disaster and using it as an opportunity to reinvent her town are just a few of the experiences Moran, a Democrat, likes to talk about when she lists her qualifications to hold the office of state treasurer.
The Ocean Springs native is running against Republican Lynn Fitch in the treasurer's race. She may not have as much name recognition as Fitch, who is the former executive director of the state personnel board, but Moran has a long list of qualifications. Moran earned her master's and bachelor's degrees in finance and international commerce from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
In the 1990s, Moran served as managing director for the Mississippi
European Office in Frankfurt, Germany, recruiting new business and industry to
the state for the Mississippi Development Authority. She also worked as an economist at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Moran, now 55, moved back to Ocean Springs in 2005, after her daughter, Magdeleine, was born with autism and cerebral palsy. The divorced, single mother said her experiences in raising a special-needs child have made her an advocate for more public funding and resources for parents of disabled children.
What's it like being a mom, a mayor and running for statewide office?
Well, it's a challenge. I am responsible still for the day-to-day operations of the city of Ocean Springs. When I am out of town, we have a mayor pro tem. Any time I leave the city, he is there, but they can reach me by phone. We just passed our budget, and that's taken up a lot of time.
What does that budget look like?
We have $14 million in our general fund. We cut 13 percent, but without any employee furloughs. The year before, we cut the budget by 16 percent, and we did not have any employee furloughs at that time.
What are your thoughts on the state capitalizing on creative economy?
I think that's a perfect niche for Mississippi to focus on. Ocean Springs has long been a creative community, starting with Walter Anderson's family in the 1920s. ... What we are doing to support that is honor what people value as art. We have just renovated the community center where Anderson painted his murals. He painted them for $1, and now they are worth $30 million, and thousands of people come to view the murals. ... There has been a lot of hands-on influence that myself and the board of alderman have had, ... but we can't do it all ourselves, so we partner with other civic organizations.
What will be the treasurer's role in overseeing state bonds?
The state bond commission is made up of three people: the governor, attorney general and state treasurer. They take a look at the bond projects that are passed and authorized by the Legislature. They determine which projects are really necessary. ... The bond commission has input on the types of projects that go forward, and that's huge.
Do you think anything about the process should change?
I think it's a bit convoluted. Right now, the projects first go to the Mississippi Development Authority, and MDA passes a resolution with the projects that are then presented to the bond commission. It's not a transparent process when you have some projects that the Legislature passes, and somehow, by the time it hits MDA, it is transformed into something else. The fact that the governor can pull something off the agenda without the other members having any say-so, I think that needs to change. That gives one person too much power.
Regarding the special session, some legislators complained that they did not receive notice before deciding whether to use taxpayer money to fund projects.
That's not unusual. I remember when I was running the state European office for MDA, we were very competitive to get the Mercedes-Benz project. We offered a very lucrative package to try and bring them to the state, and then suddenly, at the drop of a hat, the governor of Alabama called a special session and matched our project plus $80 million in incentives. In order to entice a project, it's not uncommon for a governor to call a special session without any warning. It's how the competitive economic-development game is played.
What about doing due diligence? After all, we are still haunted by the defunct beef plant.
You don't want to commit millions of taxpayer dollars flying by the seam of your pants. It comes back to local entities and the state doing due diligence on projects before jerking the chain of the Legislature to cough up cash.