State of the City 2024: 325 years of success

Here is the prepared text of Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich’s 2024 State of the City presentation, delivered at the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday, March 7, 2024. To see the video, click here.

From the podium:

Hello Biloxi. Welcome to the State of your city.

Thank you all for being here today.

Thanks also to Tina and everyone at the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber.

This address was started by Tommy Munro and this is the 34th State of the City.

This marks the ninth time for me to deliver this address. Believe me, I’m as pumped up today as I was in June 2015 when I first became your mayor.

Today, Biloxi teems with a sense of accomplishment, excitement, energy, and anticipation. Not hope but expectation.

I have said this before, Biloxi has its own GRAVITY, a gravity that attracts developers to City Hall nearly every day, eager to make their mark in a rapidly evolving Biloxi… that promises a future with opportunity and prosperity for everyone.

But, it’s not all roses. There are challenges that come from many directions that also need to be met every day.

I have said this before too, none of this could have happened without the support of the Biloxi City Council.

You know I appreciate you for always keeping Biloxi and its citizens at heart and being thoughtful and reasonable in your decision-making. I don’t remember any real arguments. It’s been fun, right!?

Take it from me, you just don’t wish for all this progress, all the accomplishments, and the quality of life we enjoy today. You all know, and I point out, that comes from the leadership and hard work of the men and women in each and every one of our departments.

In a few moments, we will show you that in the video prepared by Public Affairs.

Before I go any further, let me acknowledge and give special thanks to some of the people who have also helped in our progress.

We have had very successful partnerships with Harrison County, and we enjoy great working relationships with our sister cities, as well as numerous agencies at the State and Federal level, one especially, the United States Air Force and our beloved Keesler Air Force Base.

That brings me to a very special presentation.

(Mayor Gilich presented John C. “Clark” Griffith with the Most Distinguished Biloxian proclamation.)

I’m still pumped. Now check out and enjoy the video. I’ll see you in a few minutes.


Over the past 325 years, we have been building someplace special: Biloxi, Your Family; Your Home; Your Future.

Building on 325 years of success

Sunrise on Biloxi.  Since Pierre Le Moyne, D’Iberville landed here 325 years ago, the people of Biloxi have been here to see this beautiful sunrise more than 118 thousand times.

During that time Biloxi has grown. We have built a thriving seafood industry, and it has become a booming tourism and gaming destination. It hosts a major military installation and offers quality healthcare facilities and an award-winning school district. These accomplishments are all a great source of pride for Biloxians.

But, most importantly, Biloxi is homeIt has been a home for generation after generation of our people. Families have settled here from all over the world to make this place their home, and they built the Biloxi we are today.

Home… YOUR HOME… as we look ahead to the next 325 years… home will always be our primary focus.

Community Development

In 2023, we continued to see our city grow in many ways.  For months, 28 to be exact we saw record sale tax collections. More than $1.4 million in sales tax was collected in July 2023 making it the highest reported in decades, possibly even in the history of Biloxi. Now, monthly figures are eclipsing the million-dollar mark for more than 34 months in a row.

Trends continue to move in the right direction.  Growth is taking place, bringing more people to Biloxi.

In economic development, last year, nearly 4,000 building permits were issued.

We saw several new commercial construction projects, renovations of existing structures, and new multi-family and single-family residential homes.  We continued improvements to the services we provide.

The thriving downtown breakfast café, The Toasted Yolk, is now open just north of the stadium on Howard Avenue. Down the street, The Bella, a boutique-style hotel, opened offering guests not only a unique place to stay but a place to dine for breakfast and lunch.  It even triplets as a bakery.

At the stadium, renovations are taking place on the right field berm and the Shuckers shop. The berm is being transformed into a beach paradise with a splash pad, beach chairs, shade structures, and a tiki bar.  The retail shop is doubling in size to make space for an expanded selection of Shuckers merchandise, including the recently announced Biloxi King Cakes alternate identify. The King Cakes will play four games this season.

Last year, the Beau Rivage transferred the naming rights of the stadium to the city. Keesler Federal Credit Union was selected and the contract will be approved by the City Council. Then the new stadium name will be revealed.  

Over at the White House Hotel, developers are expanding with a new 55-room hotel. Work is moving along on that project.

Over on Pass Road, the new Zaxby’s opened with a largely attended grand opening.

Renovations on the exterior of the historic Saenger Theatre wrapped up. Many of the repairs and renovations inside the theatre were also completed. A short time ago, city crews moved the theatre seats that were in storage back inside.  And now, we’re cleaning the chairs, and repairing and painting interior surfaces.  Soon, we will begin the restoration of the ornate features near the stage. We’re looking for state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment including a digital video wall which will significantly increase the functionality of this great venue.  We hope to re-open the theatre for use this year.  

Renovations continue over at the Barq’s building. If you drive by the 1920s building, you see progress. Permanent power has been added to the building, lighting the way along the west end of the bricked roadway. Windows have been installed on the second floor where 13 one and two-bedroom apartments will sit. Developer Lee Young says each will be unique and will have an industrial feel. Expect to see them ready to move in this summer.

Work is also underway on the two-story restaurant and space for retail shops. It has been a monumental task to transform this historic building into a mixed-use development. No doubt it will bring new excitement and opportunities to downtown.

Down the road on Caillavet Street, developers are moving along with the cottages. Two of eight have been constructed. Painting and sheetrock work are taking place. Plans are to have the two cottages up for sale in a couple of months. Then, they will move on to building the remaining quaint living spaces.

Last year we announced that a Rouses Market is coming to Biloxi on Pass Road in the old Winn Dixie building. Construction is moving right along with those renovations.  We’re hopeful that you’ll be shopping there by the end of this summer.

We are also progressing on the Popp’s Ferry Road extension project. In 2023, we finalized purchasing all the rights of ways along the route. We also applied for all necessary permits and are working with MDOT for consent to advertise for construction we’re expecting that any day now.

And, we are working with CSX on the proposed railroad crossing at the extension. We have already permanently closed two railroad crossings in East Biloxi, at Nixon and Dorries streets. We will be constructing a connector road between Benachi and Porter Avenue in order to close another crossing.

Last spring, the Main Street railroad crossing was re-opened. The steep-dangerous crossing was replaced by a new at-grade crossing.

Along the waterfront, the sand re-nourishment project was implemented between Oak Street and the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.  27,550 tons of heavier sand processed and imported from Picayune was placed on top of the existing powder-like sand. The goal keep the sand on the beach and not blowing across Beach Boulevard.  And it’s working.

Saturday night, Feb.3, we experienced heavy winds from the Gulf. The next day, once the wind gusts subsided, the proof was visual.  There was no sand on the road between Oak Street and the Small Craft Harbor.  There was plenty of sand to see along the road in other areas of the city. The heavy side along with the boardwalk knee wall did its job. I hope to partner with other agencies to replicate this project in other stretches along the sand beach.

Down the road at Margaritaville, Paradise Pier opened with a 180-foot observation wheel, amusement rides, an ascending bar, and spectacular views of the Mississippi Sound. The resort held its year anniversary celebration just days ago.

Next door to the resort, new floating docks are being added at the Point Cadet Marina between the Golden Nugget and Margaritaville. The first phase will allow space for 27 boats.

We saw improvements to some of our piers. The Forrest Avenue and Porter Avenue piers on Back Bay were both revived with new decking, handrails, and pavilions. Decades-old piers are now in tip-top shape for public use.

Over on Popp’s Ferry, the Causeway fishing pier that was damaged by Hurricane Zeta was repaired and reopened for public use.

Future work is planned for the Popp’s Ferry loop pier which was also damaged by storms. Tideland funds have been allocated for the demolition and repair of that pier.

A complete rehab of the Popp’s Ferry drawbridge including the grates and mechanical components is being designed.  A $12 million MDOT grant with a $3 million match from the city will fund this project. We are working with Neel-Schaffer engineers and MDOT to implement the project. 

Damaged light poles and electrical panels were removed at the Popp’s Ferry Recreational fields. Daytime play is available with reservations through the Parks and Recreation Department.

Much-needed improvements are underway at the 68-acre A.J. Holloway Sports Complex. Work began last fall on this $5.16 million project. Subsurface drainage has been installed along the baseball infields and outfields, and groundwork on the baseball and softball fields is taking place. Approximately 70,000 square feet of synthetic turf will be installed on the baseball infields along with new irrigation and about 15,000 square yards of Bermuda sod in the outfields. Around 100,000 square feet of synthetic turf will be installed at the four softball infields along with new sub-surface drainage.

Parking lots will be added at the baseball, softball, soccer, and football fields. It will provide the complex with about 120 new parking spaces.

The existing soccer and softball fields will be stripped and nearly 34,000 square yards of new topsoil and Bermuda sod will be installed. In addition, we are looking at repairing lights on the softball side since construction is projected to be finished first in that area.

We are looking to install LED lights at a couple of our neighborhood ballparks for our youth baseball and softball leagues while the construction is progressing at the A.J. Holloway Sports Complex. Fields at Todd Migues Park on Parker Street and Savarro Park on Irish Hill Drive will be the first to receive the upgrades. 

Improving the quality of life for our residents and visitors is a priority. That’s shown in the work that we are doing.

Roadways are maintained every day. City crews patch holes, clean drains, and maintain the high-quality water systems we have.  In fact, we have repaved 12 miles of neighboring roads downtown. And more are planned throughout the city.

Katrina Infrastructure work continues in East Biloxi and a long Beach Boulevard in West Biloxi.

We have completed more than $292 million of the more than $355 million work with more than $31 million in active construction of replacing old water, deep-sewer, and drainage lines.

Progress is definitely being made.  We hope to see the finish line for the work in East Biloxi from the Point to Holley Street later this year.

Many improvements and accomplishments have been made in our city departments.

With a workforce of nearly 650 employees, the services you expect are provided each and every day.

Fire Department

In June, the city created a new emergency medical services district. It selected a new ambulance service provider to address the specific needs of Biloxi residents and visitors.

Pafford Emergency Medical Service is now stationed within the Biloxi Fire Department, working side by side with Biloxi Firefighters on emergency medical calls. This is the first time in more than forty years that an ambulance service has been embedded in Biloxi Fire Stations.

The department also received three new fire trucks that were custom-built with Biloxi Firefighters in mind. The $1.725 million investment is assisting firefighters to bring you the best services possible. 

After putting the new trucks on the front lines, the fire department was able to donate two of the aging fire trucks to the cities of Metcalf and Greenville and sell one other aging truck to the City of Greenville. These Mississippi departments benefit greatly from the vehicles and equipment.

Our firefighters train thousands of hours to enhance fire safety, provide public education, and support the growth in our city.

Police Department

We implemented new special events ordinances to help public safety personnel protect the health, safety, and welfare of Biloxi residents and visitors. These ordinances give organizers expectations to follow when planning one of the numerous special events held in our city.

Last year, the Police Department participated in the planning and coordinating, as well as serving at a number of large and small events throughout the city, including the Thunder Over the Sound Air Show. You can expect to see the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds return to Biloxi in 2025.

Our Biloxi Police Officers responded to an increasing number of complex calls for service and still find ways to interact positively with the community. Of the 101,384 calls for service the department received, 62 percent of the call volume was officer-initiated meaning our officers were proactive in protecting and preventing issues in our city.

Each division of the police department whether it is the K9 unit, dive team, traffic division, investigations, animal control, or dispatch, all hold training paramount. The department completed and conducted thousands of hours of training. They are prepared!

We also saw Fallen Biloxi Police Officer Robert McKeithen remembered when the U.S. Post office located on Main Street named the facility in his honor.

And, in early 2023, they worked with the U.S. Secret Service and members of the city administration to make sure an international president was safe when visiting our city. I was able to welcome the President of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, and the First Lady of Croatia Sanja Music Milanovic to Biloxi with no worries. The reception included our Governor Tate Reeves, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, and Mississippi Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn.

Being of Croatian descent, it was an exciting interaction. I believe it was Biloxi’s first-ever official state visit.

Our first responders are dedicated to serving the community. And I value and appreciate the sacrifices they make to keep Biloxi a safe place to live, work, and visit.

Parks and Recreation Department

Our Parks and Recreation Department continues to maintain amenities for public leisure and host community events throughout the year. It maintains 16 parks and playgrounds, 20 ballfields, and a number of other public facilities.  Last year, renovations at the Biloxi Civic Center continued with the installation of two laser projectors and a new dance floor as well as the purchase of new facility chairs and tables.

We saw the opening of the Woolmarket City Center on Kayleigh Cove.

We saw the installation of new lighting begin at Eagle Point Park and the construction and opening of the restrooms and pavilion at the Popp’s Ferry pickleball courts.

Participation in several of our sports leagues increased. More partnerships were formed with Biloxi High Athletics. And, many city league championships were held at Biloxi High Fields.

Engineering Department

In the Engineering Department, more than 45 projects are either in concept, design, construction, or closing out. Last year, the department completed $13.9 million in projects. In addition to managing all of the ongoing city projects, it completed more than 550 service requests from residents and over 200 private utility permit requests.

Water and sewer systems were installed along Shriners Boulevard north of Woolmarket Road and north to Hollee Drive. Phase two of this project also began picking up from Hollee Drive and going north to the city limits.  These lines will be tied into the Harrison County Utility Authority water main, providing adequate and redundant pressure to the water system.

Public Works Department

City Public Works crews handled more than 8,000 work orders totaling more than $3 million. On call, 24/7, they provide many services for the well-being of our city including asphalt repair, mowing the rights of way, trash pickup on city streets and city property, water main repairs, road signage, set up and removal of barricades, cemetery maintenance, Popp’s Ferry bridge maintenance, and water and sewer billing.

They also have 10 certified well operators and three certified wastewater operators that maintain 23 water wells, 96 lift stations, and more than 2700 fire hydrants. Our certified well operators make sure our water meets all state and federal regulations required by the State Health Department. All four of our water systems scored a perfect 5 out of 5 from the State Department of Health.

Public Affairs

And to keep everyone informed, is our public affairs team. They make sure the public is aware of the city’s projects and events. They work with each department on current projects, events, and BTV programming.

BNews is of great significance. The team is diligent in completing the city’s newsletter which is delivered to ALL Biloxi addresses by the first of each month. They work around the clock to make sure traffic advisories are sent through the city’s B-Alert system and that the city’s various social media pages are providing real-time information to connect with

Biloxi residents and visitors.

Our… your City employees… in every department keep striving every day to keep our city booming

You’ve heard about and seen accomplishments over the last several months. It is a great source of pride for me and it should be for all Biloxians.

As the sun sets each night, we should all be grateful for how blessed Biloxi has been.  

But, it’s because of you, the citizens, employees, and visitors of Biloxi. You are the reason we have flourished for 325 years and you are the reason we can all look forward to the next 325 years.

I will close once again by saying, “God bless you, and may God continue to bless the City of Biloxi”.

Closing from the podium:

Please give Public Affairs, Cecilia, John, and Renny, the Beau Rivage, and everyone for putting together the video you just saw. A round of applause.

Also, many thanks to each one of the departments not only for providing Public Affairs the information on the progress you’ve seen but for actually doing an amazing job.

Think about this…

From the book of Proverbs, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”.

From former Governor Phil Bryant, “Vision without action is delusion”.

You all know me, and you know I thrive on action. You can be assured; Biloxi will not be disillusioned.

I stand here humbled and so proud of so many of you here today who continue to show confidence in my leadership as the Mayor of Biloxi.

So, I pledge to you today and for the years to come, that only what is in the best interest of Biloxi will drive every decision I make as the Mayor of this great city.

That the visions we all share for our beloved Biloxi will be turned into plans and then those plans turned into reality.

That for all of us, the result, we will be able to revisit some of those great Biloxi memories, and create new ones for our children and their children to experience and remember.

And then, all of us can say and proclaim, Biloxi, Proud of it!

Again, I ask God to bless all of you, and God continues to bless our Biloxi.