Choose Cochran’s successor well

Published 7:17 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2018

It was with some dismay that I read about Sen. Thad Cochran’s decision to retire from the Senate.

As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, I’ve been in this business a long time, and one of the things I’ve always enjoyed was the people I’ve met over the years. One of them was Thad Cochran.

I first met the senator in 1995. I was working for the Meridian Star and covering the second round of Base Realignment and Closure hearings, which included Naval Air Station Meridian. I remember interviewing him in person several times during meetings in Meridian and later following the final hearings in Washington. There were also several telephone interviews between the start of the hearings in March 1995, and their conclusion that May, as the events surrounding the BRAC Committee’s actions constantly changed.

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I remember working late one night at the paper wrapping up an article on comments made to the committee by the late Adm. Jeremy Boorda, who at the time was chief of naval operations, when my phone rang and a voice came over the line with the comment, “Boy, you’re working late.” It was Cochran returning my call from earlier in the day. That call endeared me to the senator. It is very rare that you have a U.S. senator or representative personally return your call, although I did receive the same courtesy from Reps. Sonny Montgomery and Gene Taylor, and Sen. Trent Lott.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying Cochran’s departure leaves a big hole, not only Mississippi’s delegation, but also in the Senate, where his seniority and knowledge of issues and procedures will truly be missed, and it’s sad to see him leave when leadership is at a premium in both houses of Congress.

His absence will be felt more by people in Mississippi, where his seniority, like Lott’s, Montgomery’s and Taylor’s has been missed since they left their seats in Congress. And one of the things he will be remembered for along with Lott and Taylor is the work on getting federal aid for the people of Mississippi and the coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. As one of those who was able to benefit from that assistance, it was most appreciated.

Now we look toward the transition from Thad Cochran to the individual who will take his seat in the Senate. I can’t bring myself to say replace, because I don’t believe anyone can do that.

So who will the senator’s successor be? That is the mystery. Gov. Phil Bryant will have to appoint someone to fill the seat at least through the special election to pick a “permanent” successor, and it goes without saying the person appointed to temporarily fill the seat will seriously consider trying to make it a full-time job.

Governor, choose wisely. Voters, choose wisely. The selection to fill Thad Cochran’s seat is a critical one. If we get someone half as good as Thad Cochran has been, we’ll have chosen well.

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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