Speaker Philip Gunn has emerged as a stronger figure in his second year at the helm of Mississippi House.
Last year, Gunn often seemed to be first among equals in a group of senior House Republicans. This year, he appears to be more firmly in charge. He has also managed to avoid getting permanently aligned with either Gov. Phil Bryant or Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, maintaining freedom of action as his own man.
The third-term Clinton lawmaker, who just turned 50, did a lot of spadework to get to this point, including yearsâ?? worth of lunches and dinners with House members to cultivate them as potential allies. Heâ??s also got a sly, self-deprecating sense of humor that can defuse tense moments in the 122-member chamber.
Mississippi speakers are noted, historically, for iron rule and long tenures. That made them so powerful that the governor today works in a white skyscraper named for a former speaker, Walter Sillers. Ultimately, House members revolted against Speaker C.B. â??Buddieâ? Newman in 1987, changing the rules to spread out power in the chamber and decrease the speakerâ??s ability to banish opponents to meaningless committees.