By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times
A member of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s leadership team was the Eupora Rotary Club’s guest speaker last week.
Keith Heard, chief of staff for Cochran, (R-Miss.), said in his Aug. 18 address that one of the main things the senator wants to work is creating jobs for Mississippi. Cochran, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, has secured funding for another Coast Guard National Security Cutter to be built in Mississippi.
He also supported committee passage of a spending bill that includes provisions protecting wireless broadband Internet service in rural Mississippi. The bill would prevent the FCC from making additional cuts to a program used to expand internet service in rural areas, and will expand the use of telehealth technology in the Delta and this area, according to Heard.
When asked what Webster County can do to attract jobs, Heard replied, “It takes communities coming together and pooling your strong points.” He also recommended hiring a part-time economic development director.
The county is a member of the Regional Economic Enterprise of Mississippi, an economic development organization representing Choctaw, Montgomery and Webster counties. The Enterprise advertised for an executive director earlier this summer; the application deadline was July 22.
Heard also pointed out that the Appropriations Committee cleared its final appropriations measure last month, which marked the first time in six years that all 12 appropriations bills have been approved by the full committee.
On public policy issues of note, Heard said Cochran opposes the nuclear agreement with Iran.
In a statement released in July, Cochran said, “Iran cannot be allowed to gain nuclear weapons capabilities, and I am skeptical whether the agreement reached by the Obama administration is truly verifiable and enforceable. Congress must cast a critical eye on this deal to ensure that it does not reward a nation that actively sponsors terrorism. I look forward to carefully examining the agreement to ensure that it protects our national security interests and our allies.”
Heard also said Cochran is for terminating federal funds for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Senate blocked a Republican drive Aug 3. to terminate federal funds for PP, which has been under increased scrutiny because of undercover videos that showed Planned Parenthood officials talking about the procedures for collecting fetal tissue for research and the fees they charge tissue procurement companies.
Heard is a partner with the Washington-based TCH Group, and has worked previously for Cochran in legislative and political capacities. He worked on Cochran’s first Senate campaign and was among his first Senate staff members.
In his 2014 re-election campaign, Cochran beat back a spirited primary challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel, winning in a Republican runoff. Heard, who assumed a more active role during the runoff and general election, told Rotarians last year’s race was “the roughest thing I’ve ever been involved in.”
Referring to the millions of outside spending against Cochran in the campaign, Heard said “Cochran outworked them and had issues on (his) side.”
A native of Brooksville, Heard and his wife, Chrissy, have four children and reside in Columbus. Brad White, state director for Cochran, accompanied Heard at last week’s meeting.