Gautier: Meet your new Mayor Phil Torjusen

IMG_7268-e1498708827126-300x300 Gautier: Meet your new Mayor Phil TorjusenGautier, meet your new mayor Phil Torjusen.

Mayor Torjusen is a native of south Jackson county, and a resident of Gautier since 1984. Mayor Torjusen and his wife have been married 34 years and have raised four kids right here in Gautier. They still reside in the same house they built in 1988. His past career experience is with Nationwide Resort Development Company and Nationwide Campgrounds, and now works primarily in commercial and residential real estate. Mayor Torjusen has also served on the Gautier planning commission and the civil service commission for the past 12 years in various roles.

“I never pictured myself in political office, but it kind of evolved. I think this year with the national election people got more in tune and more engaged with any election they have in their whole life. To me, it was a very critical election for the future of this entire country. I think it’s going to try to right the ship so to speak and it really encouraged me to jump into the race. I saw an opportunity for me to better apply my experience to use it better than what I was using it as,” explains Torjusen. He also explains, “I had some people approach me about running for Gautier’s mayor and I just waited to see what would happen, I actually didn’t get into the race until there was fifteen minutes left for qualifying. Nobody jumped in to run against the incumbent, so I did.”

Mayor Torjusen plans to use the economy that is moving nationwide. Some plans he has is using his knowledge of building infrastructures for campgrounds and resorts regarding quality water and sewage at a fair price. He also wants to improve the infrastructure in order to properly do economic development. “We lost our revenue and tax stream when the mall was demolished, and we haven’t replaced it. Our citizens services were cut due to that. We have a low paying police force, a low paying fire department, the lowest on the coast. We need to get our revenue right and improve cash flow so we can stabilize these issues for our citizens,” says the new mayor.

Phil Torjusen is a graduate of Pascagoula High School and University of Mississippi in 1978.

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The fabulous “FabLab” comes to Jackson County schools

Jackson County schools will now have access a new mobile unit offering high tech tools. The $1.2 million dollar project is sponsored by Chevron Pascagoula Refinery. “FabLab” manager Scott Bebee explains, “FabLab is a mobile engineering lab that brings tools to students in our community particularly in three different attendance centers. We provide tools to the community like sewing machines, laser engravers, wood routers, vinyl cutters, and 3D printers which helps teachers and students bring their projects to life.”

The “FabLab” has trained about 30 ambassador teachers this summer so far to operate the high tech tools and capabilities of the mobile unit. “That’s about two people per school,” explains Beebee.

The goal of the “FabLab” is to allow students to see in real time how their projects develop, and encourage interest in the engineering field.

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Anchor Square offers help to burgeoning businesses

Starting a new business can be a daunting task. It may seem like all it takes is an idea and some capital, but there is a lot of planning and resources that go into such an endeavor. One of the most surprising expenses can be just how much it costs to rent a space. Well, there is help in downtown Pascagoula thanks to Anchor Square.

“Anchor Square is a small business incubator for the city of Pascagoula,” said LaLinda Grace, Economic Development Specialist for the city. “It is a group of 15 MEMA cottages that have been repurposed for retail and restaurant use. The goal is to offer low overhead for new, or new to Pascagoula, businesses. Anchor Square allows them to come in, establish their business, grow, and then move out to vacant properties in town.”

To date, Anchor Square has seen the transition of several businesses, including Zeal Boutique, Alan Hinklel Photography, Gourmet Gurl, and Whimsy Books & Toys.  

“It gives an opportunity for someone who wants to open a business and a place to start off with low cost, so that they’re not having to put in a lot of their own personal money,” Grace said. “It’s easier to start a business here than somewhere that maybe has a higher rent or things like that.”

The main purpose of Anchor Square is to serve as a starting-off point for small businesses. There are plans in place to make sure the businesses eventually move out of that location.

“Rent on our cottages increases by 10 percent each year for our tenants,” Grace explained. “We have two different cottage options: a single with a $235 per month rent and a double with a $291 per month rent, with tenants signing a one-year lease. We also have a transition policy in place where we do an evaluation of each business each year to help them move out. Businesses are usually able to stay for three years before they need to transition out.” 

For more information about Anchor Square, including a list of current businesses, visit their website or call Grace at (228) 938-2352. Anyone interested in getting advice on opening a small business can also visit the Anchor Square office or talk to the present tenants. 


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Dobson: ‘My loyalty and interest is always what is best for Ocean Springs’

After 12 years, Ocean Springs will begin July with new leadership in the mayor’s office with Republican Shea Dobson.


At 31 years of age, Dobson has been interested in politics for nearly a decade, beginning with the 2008 presidential election.

“I was visiting my dad in Tennessee during the holidays of 2007, and he had one of the debates on TV,” Dobson recalled. “I was really impressed by Ron Paul. I could tell he was genuine, and that when he said something, it wasn’t because it was the necessarily the politically-correct thing to say, but because he really felt it. It was just the opposite of how I thought of politics as a whole. It eventually inspired me to go back to school and major in political science.”

While in school at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dobson also minored in religion and became involved with the Young Americans for Liberty before earning his degree in 2014. 

“I traveled all over through different campaigns I worked on,” Dobson said. “I have been to Colorado. I lived right outside Austin, Texas, after I graduated from college. I lived in Iowa for the summer of 2015. I’ve traveled all over Mississippi as well. I hope one day to travel more.

“I decided to return to Ocean Springs because honestly during the 2016 presidential election I saw how divisive things got and got fed up with national politics. I decided I wanted to get more involved locally.”

Dobson saw the 2017 municipal elections as his way to get involved and be the change he wanted to see in Ocean Springs.

“I saw a void in leadership in Ocean Springs, and I felt I had the right life experiences, the right drive, and felt like I was what Ocean Springs needed,” he said. “I feel I’m able to bridge the gap. Especially with my generation, we’re not as polarized, so I can bridge the gap not only in political parties, but ideology, religions, socioeconomic division, downtown versus east, and just in so many other ways. With my age group, I can remember the good old days where kids played outside, I was also still in school when social media and chat rooms rose in popularity. I think some people underestimated me because of my age, but I feel it’s an asset. I have the drive and energy. I’m single with no kids, so I have plenty of time on my hands. I’m a political nobody as far as the Gulf Coast goes, so I’m not knee-deep in political circles or bogged down with tradition. I’m able to talk to my constituents with a new perspective on things.”


While some may think it takes an outgoing personality to choose to run for public office, Dobson doesn’t consider himself an extrovert.

“I’m actually naturally introverted, meaning I do well on a stage giving a speech, but not as well in small groups making small talk and networking,” Dobson revealed. “I’m a big football fan, mainly the Tennessee Titans. I consider Tennessee my second home. I grew up with my dad living there, so even though I’ve never had a Tennessee address, I think of it as my second home. Having studied political science and religion, I joke that I studied the two things you’re not supposed to talk about. However, in my minor, I was a lot more interested in the philosophy and sociology of religion over the theology. I really like reading, and I’ve especially gotten into audio books, nonfiction mostly, I still enjoy learning about theology, philosophy, quantum physics, just anything. My favorite philosopher and writer is Alan Watts. He was born in the United Kingdom and does a really great job of explaining Eastern theology from a Western perspective.”


Now that Dobson has been elected and will begin serving after the 4th of July holiday, he is excited to help foster business growth in Ocean Springs. 

“I really want to make sure we’re not overbearing potential small businesses with regulations and red tape,” he said. “I want to make sure entrepreneurs are spending less time jumping through hoops and more time creating jobs. Those regulations only hurt small businesses, because bigger corporations have the time and money to jump through those hoops. I’m willing to listen to companies that want to come and build here in Ocean Springs. When you have your big chain stores like Wal-Mart, there is an opportunity for smaller business to build around it. I also want to build up east Ocean Springs more, and give people to take the 57 exit from I-10. Right now, people mainly take the Washington Avenue exit, and I want to change that.”

Dobson also understands the unique opportunity presented to Jackson County with all four municipalities electing new mayors in this past election.

“We have discussed having a meeting once a month to keep each other informed and share best practices to help promote and grow our respective municipalities,” he explained. “We want to work together to make Jackson County a great place. However, my loyalty and interest is always what is best for Ocean Springs. I like to think it as I’m not necessarily trying to get the city a bigger piece of the pie, but that I’m trying to grow the pie.”

With all of his hopes and visions for Ocean Springs, Dobson understands not all residents will be as receptive to so much change.

“I understand people could be very nervous about all the change,” he said. “People are afraid I will uproot and compromise the identity of Ocean Springs, but that is not my intent. I don’t want to compromise who we are, but I also want to make sure we aren’t stagnant. I want to take our identity and move it into the future. I don’t want to see the Gulf Coast grow around us and not reap any of the benefits. In the end, it’s all a balancing act.”

Dobson will take his oath of office on June 30 at the Ocean Springs Community Center on Washington Avenue at 5:30 p.m.

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Shell searches for security

For more information about Shell or other adoptable pets, visit the Jackson County Animal Shelter or call (228) 497-6350.

Shell is a pretty calico female approximately two years years old.

She was a stray brought in this past May.

She has not been spayed yet; however, she is looking for someone to take her to her forever home. 

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Chevron dad on fatherhood: ‘Maybe single best thing there is’

Father’s Day has been nationally celebrated for nearly a century as a way to honor men who have stepped up to one of life’s greatest challenges: raising children.

One man, an operator at Chevron, has truly stepped up to the challenge, being a father to four children.

Ronald L. Hackney Jr. has a 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter from a previous marriage as well as a set of twins he adopted with his current wife.


“It can be pretty tough some times,” Hackney said. “It’s balancing act. I only see my two oldest on my off weekends, so I’m trying to balance doing stuff with the big ones and the little ones, but it’s getting easier now during the summer. The babies are great. They don’t fuss and are extremely content. Having them has added a whole other level of difficulty into normal life, going from not having kids in the house to having two infants. It definitely has its challenges.”

Of course, another challenge gets thrown into the mix with Hackney’s unusual work schedule.

“I do rotating shift work,” he said. “I worked Wednesday and Thursday nights then I have a couple days off and go back to day shift on Monday. My wife also works as a teacher, but it works out because when I get home in the morning I help her get the babies up and ready for the day.”

Anyone who has one newborn knows it can throw life into a state of chaos, so having two infants at home has been an experience for Hackney and his family.

“We made the decision to adopt and it was taking awhile to get everything going and finding that match,” he said. “We were actually getting ready to head out on vacation to the mountains when our social worker called us about this set of twins. They were born weighing four pounds each, so they did have to stay in the NICU for the first week of their lives, but on Black Friday we picked up two babies.

“Life has a way of working out. My wife is good at scheduling, and I’m good at following directions. Working at Chevron also affords us to take some good vacations to spend time together. It’s definitely a balancing act, and the two oldest kids are great at helping with the babies.”

For Hackney, fatherhood is like nothing else.

“Probably the most rewarding thing in life is knowing you got these little people that you are responsible for, how they grow and change,” Hackney said. “Especially with oldest and watching how they interact with two babies, it’s rewarding. You start to see their personalities and how they develop and grow and mature. It gives you a little sense of joy and fulfillment. It’s maybe the single best thing there is.”

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Director dedicates life to service

Life isn’t always easy. Everyone could end up falling on hard times at some point, and people might not always know where to go for help. At least for residents of Jackson County, there is the Jackson County Civic Action Committee, working under the direction of Diann Payne.

“We serve 637 people in Jackson County, with centers in Vancleave, Moss Point, Gautier and Taconi,” said Executive Director Payne. “Our main focus is to help people become self sufficient. Our motto is ‘Helping people, Changing lives.’ We deal with a lot of low to moderate income people who, for various reasons, can’t be self sufficient. For whatever reason, a 40-hour work week is not enough to take care of their living expenses. We assist them thorough case management to assess the household and everyone in it. We see if any non-contributors can become contributors.

“If anyone needs a GED or any specialized training, we’ll arrange that through the community college or GED program. We have our Head Start program as well. I think education is so critical to what we do here. I think if children get a quality education, they will be better citizens. They will be contributing members of our community, our state, and ultimately our country, so I really believe in education.”

Other services the center offers are income tax preparation, a senior center and summer day care.

The path that led Payne to the position of executive director was not a direct one, even commenting that she didn’t expect to be here with her educational background.

“I have a background in accounting, a masters in business, so I was the finance person here,” she said. “My husband and I moved from Memphis 32 years ago, so now I consider Jackson County home. So I was the fiscal officer, then when this job became open, I applied. I think it fits well for my passion for service. That’s probably more aligned with my natural inclination. I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandmother was always helping someone. I think you get that early on; you can build an ethnic of service in children when you teach them to help others. I worked in banking, so I probably thought I’d end up in banking, but this path i think it has suited me well.”

While Payne is in charge of everything under the JCCAC, she also stays heavily involved by volunteering in her local community.

“This job lends itself well to volunteerism because we rely a lot on volunteers, but even as fiscal officer I was a board member of local Red Cross and did family support with local Habitat for Humanity,” Payne said. “I worked with families in the process of receiving home. I track equity and help them with a budget and continued to work with them a year after getting home. I served on the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service. I served on the Governor’s Commission for Recovery and Renewal and worked in both the health and human services subcommittee and the education subcommittee. I’m the treasurer for the Pascagoula Rotary Club, and they believe Service above Self. If I didn’t know better I would say they created it for people like me. I do wear many different hats, but it’s easy to wear them when you enjoy what you’re doing.”

While the JCCAC and Payne are dedicated to helping residents of Jackson County, the goal is for people to be self sufficient. 

“Some people are in a situation where they are a flat tire away from missing a day’s work, so we try to remove barriers for them; they don’t want a hand out, but a hand up,” she said. ” It is a basic human responsibility, barring a disability or illness, to be self sufficient. I think most people want to. I don’t think anybody would choose not to be. Hard work does pay. Honest work is good. With hard work, determination and initiative you can be self sufficient. Some people do get discouraged, but that’s why we’re here to encourage them, they don’t have any type of safety net or social support so we do that.”

After living in Jackson County for over three decades with her husband, Payne is happy to live in such a supportive community.

“Jackson County is unique in that while you have four municipalities, I think the county is so cohesive, and to some extent it’s all for one and for all, and you don’t see that a lot of places,” she said. “It’s not 100 percent true, but it’s more evident than in some other places. I think they really support and really help each other, the leadership does. While it’s a large county, I can see if you engage in the community you get what you give. I’ve been so blessed to be able to serve, and feel very comfortable in that no matter where I am, I’m going to know a lot of people there. We all have that opportunity here.”

Pay it Forward Fridays:

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.


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Jackson County cities all elect new mayors

In a rare occurrence, new mayors have been elected in all four Jackson County municipalities in 2017.

In another unique turn of events, all cities have varying dates for their swearing-in ceremonies. The new term for elected officials begins on July 1, but the first day of July begins on a Saturday and is followed by the Fourth of July holiday.


Gautier residents elected the city’s new mayor during the primaries in early May, as no Democratic candidates challenged incumbent Gordon Gollot or newcomer Phil Torjusen.

Torjusen garnered 997 votes over Gollot’s 468.

Torjusen’s swearing-in ceremony will be June 29 inside the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College cafeteria.

Moss Point

Five candidates sought the mayoral mantle in Moss Point, including Republican John Mosley Jr., Democrat Mario King, and independents Billy Broomfield, Timothy “Mr. Dubs” Dubose, and Wanda Williams. 

King won the election with 1,686 votes, followed by Mosley’s 630 votes. Incumbent candidate Broomfield garnered 274 votes over Dubose’s 124 votes and Williams’s 42 votes.

King’s inauguration is scheduled for June 27.

Ocean Springs

In what many are calling a shocking upset, newcomer Shea Dobson was elected over incumbent Connie Moran. 

Republican Dobson earned 1,951 votes over Democrat Moran’s 1,574. 

Dobson will take his oath of office on June 30 at the Ocean Springs Community Center on Washington Avenue.


Incumbent Jim Blevins did not seek reelection in 2017, allowing Republican Dane Maxwell, Democrat Jenafer Gurley and independent Lazaro J. Rovira to seek mayoral office.

Maxwell was elected with 2,263 votes over Gurley’s 186 votes and Rovira’s 493.

Pascagoula will wait until offices reopen after the July 4 holiday, holding its ceremony July 3. Maxwell will be sworn in at 9 a.m. inside the Pascagoula Senior Center at 1912 Live Oak Ave. 

Keep up with JaxCoHome for future individual profiles on each of the mayor-elects. 
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Feline a perfect family friend

For more information about Henna or other adoptable pets, visit the Jackson County Animal Shelter or call (228) 497-6350.


Click the image above to view larger.

Henna is a female domestic short hair who came to the shelter in early June. 

She is estimated to be 26 weeks old, born in early December. 

Two words to describe Henna are playful and lovable. She would make a great addition to any Jackson County family.

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