‘I pledge allegiance to the Republican party…’

Here is the prepared text of Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich’s remarks to the Harrison County Republican Club, delivered on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 during a luncheon at the Great Southern Club in Gulfport. It is the mayor’s first speech since taking the oath of office two days earlier.

Good afternoon, my fellow Demo— Republicans. Thank you for inviting me today.

I’m here to assure you that rumors of my party affiliation have been greatly exaggerated. And just to satisfy any lingering doubters let me say this:

“I pledge allegiance,

“To the Republican Party,

“And to the Republicans for whom it stands,

“One state, under Phil

“Occasionally divisible

“With endorsements not available to all.”

I hope all of you appreciate my sense of humor, because if you’re going to run for public office, you better have one.

I do want to thank this group for coming to my defense. And I’m not concerned at all that it came after the election. The state party needed to hear from you and I’m grateful for the message you sent.

These are challenging times for our party and we clearly have too much division. If we are going to be more effective, we’re going to have to get our own house in order. To do that, we have to start at the local level. Personally, I think it’s absurd to try to out-Republican each other. It’s distracting. It’s self-defeating. It’s embarrassing.

We must come together, united in purpose and message. We have to show the voters that we are leaders, not dividers. We have to lower the rhetoric and rancor. We have to conduct ourselves with dignity and respect. It is what the people want. It’s also what they deserve.

I’m honored to be here today as the new Mayor of Biloxi. For those of you who don’t know, that’s the city east of Debuys Road.

I think the one thing that makes me happiest about being Mayor of my hometown is that the voters clearly preferred my message of love for Biloxi, appreciation of its heritage, and commitment to its future.

I offered my qualifications, I didn’t question those of my opponents. I presented my plan, I didn’t criticize those of others. I ran on my own merits. I was told by some that my strategy was wrong. I was told that my only hope was to attack. But I had more confidence in Biloxi voters than some.

And that confidence was rewarded in big numbers.

It didn’t hurt that I was endorsed by A.J. Holloway. It didn’t hurt that I was endorsed by Gerald Blessey. It didn’t hurt that I was endorsed by Felix Gines. All of them are Biloxi. And I am Biloxi.

I take great pride in that, just as you take pride in your own cities. I let the people know that my allegiance was to Biloxi, not to special interests or outside influences.

That message resonated with Biloxi voters.

The only problem, of course, is that now I have to do something.

Later today, I will be formally inaugurated, but I couldn’t wait to get started, so I took the oath of office early Monday morning.

I have an ambitious agenda. I don’t want to minimize tonight’s inaugural speech by sharing too much of my plan with you now. But I will tell you this: I hit the ground running, not walking. I’ve already completed a departmental survey of all employees and directors.

I’ve already challenged my directors to develop action plans to address those survey results.

With the help of outside analysts experienced in municipal government, I’m reviewing all operations and policies to identify alternatives that might save money and avoid wasted effort.             I’m taking a critical look at our finances and our legal and contractual issues.

I’ve never been one to do things merely because that’s the way they’ve always been done. I promised the citizens of Biloxi That I would only do what’s best for our city. That is my only motivation, my only agenda.

In closing, I ask that each of you keep me in your prayers, and I have one final request for all of you. Sometime, before the next election in two years, would someone please teach me the secret handshake?

Thank all of you. God bless all of you. God bless the Republican Party, and God bless Biloxi.