MDOT Executive director Brown to step down at end of June

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 10, 2011

NATCHEZ — Larry L.“Butch” Brown plans to retire June 30 from his post as executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, a job he’s filled for a decade.

Brown who is expected to make a formal announcement of his retirement at a Jackson press conference today, said Sunday the timing is right.

“I’ve been there for eight years longer than I said I would stay,” Brown said.

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His health is also a concern, said Brown, 67. He is battling prostate cancer for the third time.

Doctors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, will perform surgery Jan. 21. Tests will then be done to determine if the cancer has spread, Brown said.

“I’ve got good confidence in my team (of doctors),” he said.

The exact recovery schedule isn’t yet known, but Brown said he has a “bucket list” of things he plans to complete before leaving MDOT.

He selected a June 30 retirement date to allow time to finish projects he’s started and to coincide with the state’s fiscal year.

On Brown’s to-do list for Natchez, among other things, is finishing the lighting and traffic signal projects start on John R. Junkin Drive, straightening and overlaying the road into Saint Catherine Creek Wildlife Refuge and completing work on the road to Emerald Mound.

During Brown’s time leading MDOT, the department has issued $6 billion worth of contracts. Rebuilding coastal transportation after Hurricane Katrina was, perhaps, Brown’s most watched project.

“I am really proud of what we were able to do with Gulf Coast recovery,” Brown said. “We built two new bridges, all over water.”

In north Mississippi, Brown also oversaw work on three new sections of interstate — 269, 69 and 22.

And in recent years in Natchez, MDOT completed work on a continuous-flow intersection where U.S. 61 and Seargent S. Prentiss Drive meet, constructed a new bridge and reworked the intersection at Liberty Road and Seargent S. Prentiss Drive and started construction of a fly-over from U.S. 61 to U.S. 84.

Brown’s tenure hasn’t been without controversy, as he’s often been at odds with transportation Commissioner Dick Hall. Hall and others have criticized him for excessive spending, travel and management style.

Two years after Brown’s 2002 confirmation as MDOT director for the first time, he was fired by a vote of the commissioners. He was reinstated six weeks later when a new commissioner took office. He has served since that date.

For much of his tenure, though, Brown received great support from the two other elected transportation commissioners who often praised his ability to make projects happen and find federal funding.

“I have always had great contacts with our elected leadership in Washington and on the state level,” Brown said.

He has also served on numerous regional and national transportation committees and boards, including a recent term as president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation.

Though he’ll be stepping away from his Jackson post and spending more time in his hometown of Natchez, Brown said the friends he’s made along the way will always be close.

And he’s not writing off another job in the public eye entirely.

Brown was mayor of Natchez for eight years before accepting the MDOT job.