Haley Barbour this week stood at the Neshoba County Fair podium for the last time as Mississippi governor. It was the same place he first stood in 2003 to campaign for votes. The signs being waved this time said, 'Thanks, Haley'.
"For years, I wanted to make a speech at the fair that was nothing but jokes. Maybe next time," Barbour said.
Barbour outlined what he sees as the state's achievements under his watch from bringing in large manufacturers to increasing per capita income. But looking back over his two terms as governor, Barbour says Hurricane Katrina and the state's response will surely be what his administration becomes known for.
"People all over the United States and all over the world look at the response of Mississippians, who weren't whining and moping; they didn't have their hand out," Barbour said. "They weren't looking for somebody to blame. They got knocked flat and got up the next day and hitched up their britches and went to work and we had a government that worked."
Barbour says he even plans to put the crisis in his own words, literally, with an eventual book.
"Not as a political book, but more as a crisis leadership in the mega disaster," he said.
On the economic development front, Barbour says Mississippi is in a position to thrive and it's up to the next governor to make sure the state does just that. Barbour points to the Gulf Coast as a major indication of what Mississippi can do.
"I think 25 years from now people will look back and see the new rebuilt Port of Gulfport will be the biggest economic development project in state history," said Barbour.
Once out of office, he says he plans to make his rounds delivering speeches and staying in tune with the Republican Party. But at this point, it's one step at a time, since he still has a state to lead.
"Of course I've got six more months of being governor and we're going to be serious about it," Barbour said.
At this point, if he has any future political ambitions, Barbour is not revealing them publicly.