Barbour May Split MDA Post

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Governor-elect Haley Barbour is considering splitting Mississippi's top economic development job into two positions.

The Associated Press has learned that developer Leland R. Speed will fill one of the jobs.

Jimmy Heidel of Vicksburg confirmed Wednesday that he had interviewed with Barbour's transition team for the other job, but as of this writing, had not heard whether he would be offered the Mississippi Development Authority position.

Heidel says, from what he was told, the job will be split and modeled after Washington, with a Cabinet member and a chief operating officer. Heidel previously served in the Fordice administration.

The Associated Press has learned from other sources, including a Republican lawmaker, that Speed, of Jackson, is to be named to one of the MDA positions. Speed was out of his office and unavailable for comment.

Speed has been the managing trustee and chairman of EastGroup Properties since 1983 and served as chief executive officer through September 1997. He also serves as chairman of the board of directors of Parkway Properties Incorporated, and as a director of ChemFirst, according to an EastGroup Properties Web site.

Barbour is to announce his choice for MDA executive director at 1:00 p.m. Thursday. His spokesman, Quinton Dickerson, would not discuss the appointment before the announcement.