A group of former mayors and a former congressman who led their Mississippi communities to recovery from Hurricane Katrina are coming to the Jersey Shore next week to share their knowledge and experience with New Jersey’s mayors and senior municipal officials who are continuing to deal with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
The group will be speaking at a meeting of the Bayshore Conference of Mayors on Friday evening May 17, 7PM, at Anthony’s Restaurant, 65 Church St in Keansburg. All mayors and senior municipal officials of towns impacted by Sandy are invited, according to Union Beach Mayor Paul Smith, the conference president. Those wishing to attend should contact Smith via text or phone call at 732-713-0506. If someone who should have gotten an invitation didn’t, this is it. Readers are encouraged to pass this post on to their mayors.
The Mississippi delegation, comprised of former Congressman Gene Taylor and former mayors Brent Warr, Eddie Farve, and Tommy Longo, is being flown to New Jersey free on charge by Southwest Airlines. Their lodging is being donated by Dominique Ervin, General Manager, Hampton Inn of Neptune/Wall and Sal Cannizarro of Immediate Care Medical Walk In of Hazlet.
This mayors helping mayors project is the brainchild of author and former CNN correspondent Kathleen Koch. A Bay St’ Louis, MS native, Koch has dedicated herself to supporting survivors of natural disasters since Katrina. She is the author of Rising from Katrina: How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All and Found What Mattered and is donating a signed copy as a door prize for the conference. She was sent to Japan by the U.S. State Department in March of this year to deliver her message of Resiliency and Words of Hope to the survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami of the second anniversary of that catastrophic event.
Koch contacted MoreMonmouthMusings one week after Sandy hit New Jersey with A Letter To Sandy Survivors. At the end of November, Koch came up with the idea of a mayors helping mayors mentoring program and again contacted MMM to promote the idea. Freeholder Serena DiMaso saw the post, contacted Koch and both women have been facilitating Jersey Shore mayors contacting Gulf Coast mayors since.
Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long was visited by Tommy Longo in February. Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty traveled to Pass Christian, MS in December. Middletown’s Tony Fiore, who was mayor when Sandy hit, has been in touch with the mayor of Gulfport, MS.
In the afternoon prior to the Bayshore Conference of Mayors meeting, Koch, Taylor and the mayors will tour Seaside Heights with Mayor Bill Akers.
Before returning home to the Gulf on Saturday the 18th, the Mississippi delegation will be guests of DiMaso, Freeholder Director Tom Arnone and Sheriff Shaun Golden at their Armed Forces Day celebration at the Red Oak Diner in Hazlet.
Rep. Gene Taylor (D) – Representative for Mississippi’s 4th congressional district 1989 – 2011. Taylor’s waterfront home in Bay St. Louis, MS, was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. Afterwards Taylor, a fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Democrat, became an outspoken advocate for insurance reform authoring a widely-supported bill that passed the House but never made it to a vote in the Senate.
Mayor Brent Warr – In 2005, Warr was elected mayor of Gulfport, MS, at 68,000 the second largest city in the state of Mississippi. Seven weeks later, Hurricane Katrina hit. Warr remained at the helm for the next four years, overseeing the city’s recovery. In 2006, Warr received the Urban Leadership Award from the Penn Institute for Urban Research for his “outstanding work on rebuilding and responding to disaster.”
Mayor Eddie Favre – Favre served as mayor of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi from 1989 – 2009, overseeing the rebuilding of the town of approximately 9000. Though its downtown is the highest point in the U.S. on the Gulf of Mexico, 75% of the homes and businesses in Bay St. Louis were heavily damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Bay St. Louis recovered so well that in 2010 Coastal Living named it one of the top ten small beach towns in America and in April it placed #3 in Budget Travel’s “Coolest Small Towns in America.”
Mayor Tommy Longo – Longo served as mayor of Waveland, Mississippi from 1998 – 2010. Longo had a model to follow when faced with the post-hurricane recovery of his town of 7000, since his father had been mayor of Waveland when Hurricane Camille hit in 1969. Katrina’s destruction was more complete, leaving 100% of the businesses and 95% of the homes in shambles. The town has steadily recovered and Longo has made multiple trips to New Jersey to share what he learned after Hurricane Katrina with mayors impacted by Hurricane Sandy.