Where are they now? A look at some Mississippi figures from Hurricane Katrina

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour The Associated Press
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour The Associated Press
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour
The Associated Press

(AP) With Friday marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, The Associated Press takes a look at some of the key Mississippi figures from the storm and its aftermath:

— HALEY BARBOUR: The Mississippi governor was re-elected in 2007 and forced to focus on budget shortfalls during his second term. He was criticized as he left office for granting pardons, clemency or early release to about 200 convicted criminals. Barbour presided over a shift to Republican control of both houses of the Legislature, completed in the 2011 elections when the GOP took over the state House. The former chairman of the Republican National Committee has resumed work as a lobbyist, written a memoir about Katrina called “America’s Great Storm” and promoted his Katrina legacy in recent months. “Our recovery from Katrina is also the story of strong, resilient, self-reliant people who were knocked flat but then got back on their feet, hitched up their britches, and went to work helping themselves and helping their neighbors,” Barbour wrote.

— EDDIE FARVE: The longtime mayor of Bay St. Louis drew national notice for vowing that he would only wear shorts until his city recovered. President George W. Bush joked about Favre’s attire when they shared a stage. Journalists gawked at his black shorts and tuxedo top when he showed up at a formal dinner in Washington, D.C. “Poor Bay St. Louis got stuck looking at these ugly legs,” he said recently. Farve stepped down in 2009 after 20 years as mayor. After leaving office, the accountant successfully lobbied the federal government to forgive Katrina rebuilding loans it made to communities. He first wore long pants again in 2011 to a court trial where shorts weren’t allowed. Bay St. Louis has recovered its population, and its downtown is growing. However, the city struggles to balance its budget after federal storm aid dried up.

— BOBBY MAHONEY: The owner of the Mississippi coast’s most famous restaurant presided over the recovery of Mary Mahoney’s French House, part of which is in a building that dates to 1737. The restaurant reopened in November 2005 after Mahoney and family members repaired more than $300,000 in damage — a Mississippi example of restaurants as rebuilding pioneers, also seen in New Orleans. Dignitaries including Biloxi’s mayor toasted the restaurant’s 50th anniversary with champagne during a lunch in its landmark courtyard in 2014, days after Mahoney’s uncle and restaurant co-founder Andrew Cvitanovich died.

— MIKE PRENDERGAST: Waveland’s assistant police chief was among 26 officers who withstood Katrina’s storm surge by clinging to a bush and planters, then climbing onto the roof of Waveland’s police station. Prendergast was among 11 employees laid off by the city in 2011 as post-storm tax collections ebbed. Prendergast and others lost a lawsuit but he was rehired as a patrol officer months after being laid off. The 24-year veteran was re-promoted to assistant police chief earlier this year. Waveland is trying to finish a permanent police headquarters after a standoff with a contractor left bare walls for years. State Auditor Stacey Pickering is demanding that former Waveland officers return guns donated after the storm, saying they’re city property, though officers had always been required to use their own weapons.

— CORI AND KERRY RIGSBY: The sisters worked as independent adjusters for State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. to adjust insurance claims after Katrina. Saying they found evidence that State Farm was improperly blaming claims on flood waters, not covered by private wind insurance, they filed a whistleblower lawsuit. A jury ruled that State Farm should have covered a loss because it was caused by wind. The jury also found that State Farm submitted a false claim to the federal flood insurance program, saying storm surge destroyed the house. Lawyers for the sisters now say they hope to widen the lawsuit to other instances. State Farm has denied any wrongdoing.

— GENE TAYLOR: A member of the U.S. House of Representatives who had represented southern Mississippi since 1989, Taylor’s own house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Taylor and his son visited the wreckage of the house by boat the day after the storm. An early critic of FEMA’s response, the Democratic congressman later took on private insurance companies that he said had unfairly shortchanged coastal residents. He unsuccessfully proposed a combined system of federal flood and wind insurance. Considered the most conservative Democrat in Congress, Taylor lost his seat to Republican Steven Palazzo in 2010, who argued even a conservative Democrat was helping liberals. Taylor switched to the GOP to oppose Palazzo, but lost a 2014 primary.