Gilich gives whirlwind tour of city ‘on the move’

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich delivered the annual State of the City this afternoon, and after his high-flying, fast-paced 30-minute presentation, the mayor admitted the state of Biloxi can be summed up in three words: “On the move.”

“Biloxi is a teeming environment of accomplishment, excitement, energy and anticipation. Not hope, but expectation,” declared Gilich, who became mayor 43 months ago and was delivering his fourth State of the City address. The presentation is online now and will be televised by Cable One on Channel 69, at the top of every hour beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The mayor talked about boardwalks and new hotels and restaurants, city finances, city employees and the Keesler-Biloxi Thunderbirds show coming up in May, but the majority of his speech was devoted to roads and the city’s infrastructure work, a project that he said “defied logic,” had disrupted 55 miles of streets and neighborhoods from the time he took office, and, at one point had the taxpayers of Biloxi $17 million in debt. 

“After years of dirt, dust, mud and standing water, the vast majority of the 55 miles of streets have base asphalt on them with the last two inches of finishing coat underway,” Gilich said. “Curbing and sidewalks are installed and landscaping is underway. Still there are some milled up streets but we are nearing the finish line.”

Gilich noted the city has more control over infrastructure work that began this year south of the CSX railway, and he also announed that work is moving forward on final phases of the overall $355 million in work south of the railway toward Point Cadet and south of the railway toward the Coast Coliseum.

As disruptive and time-consuming as the work is, he said it is long overdue, replacing Katrina-damaged infrastructure that was installed in 1957, with a lifespan of 25 years. Said the mayor: “When complete, we will have replaced all of that work, decades overdue,” adding: “Bottom line, Biloxi will be set for the next 100 years. It will be quite an accomplishment.”

The luncheon was organized by the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commece and held at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. A crowd of 687 people attended, the chamber said. The presentation, highlighted by a 20-minute video, was loud and booming at times, with images of U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds screaming across the screen, a nod to the “Thunder Over the Sound” air show that will be produced by Keesler and Biloxi May 4-5. The city’s “Blues Over Biloxi” show with the Navy Blue Angels attracted 150,000 people and drove hotel occupancy to 97 percent, Gilich said.

The mayor also noted that this year in the 20th anniversary of the city’s annexation of Woolmarket: 1,800 of the 3,100 homes and businesses in the area have access to city water and/or sewer, two new fire stations are under construction, and the city has completed a comprehensive master plan of $35 million in improvements needed to bring city-quality services to the areas annexed.  Said Gilich: “We are not going to get there overnight, but we are going to get there.”

The mayor used the occasion to thank those who have had a hand in the city’s success – the Harrison County Board of Supervisors, and state and federal partners – and “innovative developers who helped kick-start our reformation, to those now swept up in a wave of possibility and promise.”

The mayor touted the city’s relationship with Keesler Air Force Base – “our Keesler cousins.” He spoke of the new Division Street gate for Keesler, the new opportunities for the corridor between the gate and I-110.

Added Gilich: “There is still much work yet to do, but the curtain is finally coming down on the infrastructure work north of the railroad. At the same time, the curtain is going up on newer, bigger development along our waterfront, from East Biloxi to West Biloxi, downtown and across the Bay.”

The address exuded passion. “I’m an optimistic person,” Gilich said. “I’m easily excited. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I was raised just like the rest of you Biloxi originals to work hard, play hard and appreciate what we have.

“Have no doubt that we will make things better for our children and our grandchildren and those to come in the future all who will join our ranks.”
Video: See the mayor’s address
Gallery: Images from the luncheon
See the State of the City detailed report
See the text of the mayor’s speech