Sen. Terry Burton of Newton, a Democrat, as is Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, does not mince words in expressing his opinion about the firing of
"I think the governor made a terrible mistake," said Burton. "I don't know that he had the authority to do that first of all. I'm very concerned. The legislature funded that contract with MDA for the specific reason of keeping Barry Rhoads on."
Rhoads has been the state's consultant through the three previous rounds of base closing in 1991, 1993 and 1995. Although NAS Meridian was on the closure list all three times, it, and the other eight bases in Mississippi, survived.
"I don't have any idea of what the record is of the individual who the governor has hired, but I do know Rhoads' record and that is a perfect record," said Burton. "Why would you fire someone who has done that job over and over? Everyone he's represented has come out on top in base closure rounds and to fire someone who knows Meridian Naval Air Station and the other bases in Mississippi the way he does is beyond me."
The governor replaced Rhoads with Jefferson Government Relations of Washington, D.C. One member of that firm is Wilson Goldman, a native of Greenville, who was an aide to former Gov. William Winter, when Winter was lieutenant governor.
Burton said it was a political move that may have political repercussions for the Musgrove.
"I think it's unwise for the areas that have military bases because we know the record of the man that got the axe and we know it was done for political purposes, no other reason for it," Burton said. "If the man's got a 100 percent, a thousand batting average, you don't take him out of the game."
The contract, which is placed through the Mississippi Development Authority, calls for fees totaling $200,000 per year, the same as Rhoads was receiving.