2021 Conference Speakers

Rans Black

Jackson Airports District Office Manager, FAA

Rans has over 22 years’ experience with the FAA’s Airports Division, having served in staff and management positions in both the Atlanta and Jackson Airport District Offices. He has been the manager of the Jackson Airports District Office since 2003, overseeing the planning and development of the 150 airports in Alabama and Mississippi. His work experience also includes 6 years as an Army Officer and 2 years as an airport engineering consultant. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, a registered professional engineer, and a private pilot.

James Brinson

Acting Executive Director, Mississippi Office of Homeland Security

James Brinson is employed as the Acting Executive Director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security and The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. He has been employed with the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security since 2004. Responsibilities include managing response assets for WMD related responses, oversees active shooter preparedness and training program for Mississippi, along with State Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, as well as being a sworn law enforcement officer that also works cases that are either potentially or actual terrorism related.

Mr. Brinson is a Specialist in Terrorism and Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Weapons of Mass Destruction. Mr. Brinson is an instructor in active shooter preparedness and response, training military, law enforcement and civilians in responding to and surviving active attacks. Prior to working for the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security, Mr. Brinson worked for the U.S. Air Force where he responded to terrorist incidents and countering terrorism operations worldwide. He oversees the protection of the State of Mississippi’s Citizens, Critical Infrastructure, and governmental institutions. conducts training for major sporting events on security measures and trains law enforcement agencies across the country in various counterterrorism areas. Mr. Brinson presents at many local, state, national and international audiences on terrorism and targeted violence.


Chief of Safety of the 403rd Wing, Air Force Reserve Command, Keesler Air Force Base, MS.

Lt. Col. Sean M. Cross, is the Chief of Safety of the 403rd Wing, Air Force Reserve Command, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. He is also a pilot for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. As the wing’s Chief of Safety, he develops, executes and evaluates all of the wing’s aviation, ground, and weapons mishap prevention programs to preserve mission readiness. He also promotes safety awareness and mishap prevention, evaluates corrective actions, and ensures implementation. As a pilot for the only weather reconnaissance squadron in the Department of Defense, he pilots WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft to provide surveillance of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Central Pacific Ocean for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The unit also flies winter storm missions off both coasts of the United States.

He enlisted into the Louisiana Air National Guard in June 1989, and was commissioned via Officer Training School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in May 1997. He is a command pilot with more than 5,000 hours in the MC-130P, C-130-H/J and WC-130J Hercules aircraft. Throughout his career, he has held a variety of positions at the unit level including Tactics Officer, Chief of Scheduling, Chief of Training, and Assistant Director of Operations. Additionally, he has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has flown into four of the most powerful storms in the Atlantic basin—Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Michael. Prior to his current assignment, he served as the Assistant Director of Operations for the 53rd WRS.

Madison Dixon

UAS Program Manager, Mississippi State University Raspet Flight Research Laboratory

Madison Dixon is a Research Developer and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Manager at Mississippi State University’s (MSU) Raspet Flight Research Laboratory (RFRL). In this role Mr. Dixon leads research development and management efforts which support the strategic UAS vision of RFRL and its research partners. Mr. Dixon holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Delta State University and a Master of Science degree from MSU. Mr. Dixon is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensed Remote Pilot with multiple FAA Certificates of Authorization/Waiver and over 1,800 hours of sUAS operations conducted across the U.S. In addition to his role at MSU, Mr. Dixon also serves as President of the Mississippi Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

Matthew Dowell (Matt)

Deputy Director, Golden Triangle Regional Airport

Matt Dowell, A.A.E., is the Deputy Director of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. Dowell received both his Bachelor of Commercial Aviation and Masters in Aviation Management from Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. He is an Accredited Airport Executive who has been involved in airport management since 2012. He is also an FAA licensed Flight Instructor and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle pilot. In addition, he volunteers with the local Civil Air Patrol.

Daniel P. Edney, MD, FACP

Dr. Edney is a board-certified general Internist with subspecialty board certification in Addiction Medicine. He is a summa cum laude graduate of William Carey University and the University of Mississippi School of Medicine-Class of 1988. He then completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Virginia. He has practiced general primary care Internal Medicine since 1991, becoming interested in the national opioid crisis and working with patients with complications of chronic opioid use since 2013, and working in the field of addiction as a teacher and clinician. He currently serves as the Addiction Medicine specialist for inpatient residential facilities, outpatient programs, drug court and has a private practice at Medical Associates of Vicksburg.

He is a former president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, a Fellow and Laureate of the Mississippi Chapter of American College of Physicians, currently serving as a board member on the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure and recently joined the Mississippi State Department of Health as the Agency’s Chief Medical Officer.

He is the husband of 38 years to Lori, has three adult children and two wonderful grandsons.

Kim D. Jackson

Federal Security Director, TSA – Mississippi

Kim D. Jackson is the Federal Security Director (FSD) for Mississippi.

In this role, he is responsible for the screening operations and the administrative support functions for TSA at six federalized airports (including one SPP) in the state. Mr. Jackson became the FSD on November 1, 2019.
He began his service with TSA on July 10, 2016, as the Human Resources Specialist at JAN, where he provided guidance in a wide range of areas, including staffing needs, disciplinary actions, compensation and benefits.
Prior to working with TSA, Mr. Jackson built an impressive 33-year career of achievement and advancement in a variety of command and staff positions. In his last assignment, he formalized action plans that led and directed over 3100 personnel in completing daily directives and overall missions. He developed and implemented security, emergency procedures and policies key to protecting high profile personnel and assets worth over $2 billion. He also served as a Brigade Executive Officer, a Military Police Liaison Officer and a Commander. He completed one combat mission in Iraq, in support of the Global War on terrorism. Mr. Jackson retired at the rank of Brigadier General.

Mr. Jackson earned a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is a native of Hattiesburg, MS, is married to Sheila, is a father of two sons and is a proud grandfather of two. As an avid cyclist, he enjoys biking on the Natchez Trace and tailgating during football season.

Jamie M. Miller

Chief Operations Officer, Mississippi Development Authority

Jamie M. Miller serves as the Chief Operations Officer for the Mississippi Development Authority. In this position, Miller focuses primarily government affairs with all levels of government from local to international. Miller has public- and private-sector experience working in South Mississippi and Washington, D.C. Prior to joining MDA, Miller served as the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. Prior experience also includes serving as chief of staff for Congressman Steven Palazzo and as policy advisor to Gov. Haley Barbour’s Office of Recovery and Renewal following Hurricane Katrina. A graduate of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi, Miller holds a B.S. in environmental biology with a minor in chemistry. Miller and his wife, Kelli, and have three children: Maddison, Carson and Landon.

Troy Ross

Assistant to Transportation Commissioner Tom King

Troy is a Native of South MS. He attended The University of MS.

Troy joined the Marine Corps and served until he joined the ROTC and was commissioned in the MS Army Guard. He deployed to Iraq in 2004, where he served as a Scout Platoon leader. Troy was awarded the Bronze Star while deployed. He stayed on active duty and trained urban combat operations at Camp Shelby until 2008. He worked at Chevron in Pascagoula from 2008-2012. In 2009 Troy was elected Alderman-At-Large in Ocean Springs. In 2012 Troy was elected to the Jackson County Board of Supervisors. He currently is serving in his 3 term and is Board President. Troy simultaneously is working for Commissioner King as his assistant. Troy and his wife Lauren have 4 children Sophie 14, Joseph 13, Michael 6, Luke 4. They attend St Alphonsus Church.

Joe C. Saia

Chairman, Department of Commercial Aviation, Delta State University

Joe Saia was raised along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in a small town called Wiggins. It was in his younger years that he became captivated by aviation. Wiggins, Mississippi aviators, not having an airport, were forced to use the local, small grass strip down the road from his family’s small farm. There was not a day that would pass that Joe wouldn’t ride his bicycle there and watch the small planes take off and land. At the age of thirteen his dad arranged his first flight. He was immediately bitten by the bug and it was then that he knew this would be his life’s career. Joe’s first flight instructor was tragically killed in an aircraft accident just weeks after beginning his flight lessons. There were no other certified flight instructors in this rural area to teach him so months passed when finally, a self-taught airplane builder would end up teaching Joe how to fly. This instructor had no license; no type of aviation certificate; he simply had the genius of engineering, aerodynamics, and the ability to fly a stick with ballet precision. Mr. Popeye Woods’ instruction not only planted the seeds of interest in aviation but has formed the foundation of his aviation career and his genuine love for the aviation field.

The famous professional baseball player and coach at Delta State University, Dave Boo Ferris, was a longtime family friend. Joe’s dad caught for Boo Ferris in college and it was he who sold Joe on the new aviation program at Delta State in the early eighties. Joe received his FAA certificates at Delta State University. Joe received his Bachelors of Commercial Aviation and Masters of Commercial Aviation at Delta State University as well.

After graduation Joe was hired at a small commuter/regional airline where he became captain in only eleven months. Shortly after making captain, he became an instructor then a check airman, on to being a designed pilot examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration for the airline. Joe was trained by a SAAB 340 test pilot to become a production test pilot on the Saab 340 where he test-flew and “checked out” the aircraft before it returned to revenue service at Express Airlines.

After five years there, Joe became Chief Pilot of Express Airlines One. He served as Director of Flight Operations there before leaving for Northwest Airlines where he would continue his career with his first major commercial carrier.

Joe is now a pilot for Delta Airlines currently flying the Airbus series A319, A320, A321. Joe has his Engineer certificate earned on the DC 10. He also flew the DC 9 J3100 Jetstream and Saab 340 aircraft.

He has served as a Pilot to Pilot representative for the Airlines Pilot Association where he spent time educating pilots on recent contracts and lobbying for the Association in Washington D.C. for airline and pilot issues.

His most current and exciting position has been serving as chairman of the Department of Commercial Aviation at his alma mater – Delta State University.

Joe looks forward to the years ahead where he can make a difference in the education of future pilots to ensure that young men and women can have the positive outcomes in an aviation career that he has had.

He is married to Audrey Saia, who serves as a non-profit executive director. They have four children and two grandchildren. They enjoy travelling and entertaining friends.

Josh Stubbs

Aeronautics Director, Mississippi Department of Transportation

Josh Stubbs joined the MDOT family in 2009 and began his role as the Director of Aeronautics on September 1, 2021. After a short stint in highway safety, Josh spent the next 11 years working on railroad related matters. He primarily focused on addressing railroad crossing safety issues with the approximately 25 railroad companies operating in the state of Mississippi. Additionally, he managed MDOT’s railroad loan and grant programs.

Josh is a 2008 graduate of Mississippi State University and a registered professional engineer in the state of Mississippi.

Dirk B. Vanderleest

Aviation Director, Concord-Padgett Regional Airport, North Carolina

Dirk Vanderleest is currently the Aviation Director for the Concord-Padgett Regional Airport, Concord, NC, the home to NASCAR. In 2019, the airport was the first municipal airport in the country to achieve a Stage I International Standard Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH™) level. Prior to moving to North Carolina, Dirk had worked for Waggoner Engineering, Inc., in Jackson, MS, focusing on business development and strategic planning. Dirk has a long history with airports in Mississippi; he retired from the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, in 2014 as Chief Executive Officer after twenty-four years of service. Dirk and Anne are glad to be back in Mississippi.

Jeff Wagner

Shareholder, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz. P.C.

Jeff Wagner, a shareholder in the Firm’s Jackson office, focuses his practice on public/governmental law and commercial transactional work. Mr. Wagner has extensive experience in public law matters, including the financing of public projects, public procurements and construction matters. Mr. Wagner regularly works with airports on all types of procurement, contracting and regulatory issues. Mr. Wagner served as counsel to the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority for over twenty years and has served as special counsel to the March Joint Powers Authority and the March Inland Port Airport Authority (Riverside, California) on Federal Aviation Administration regulatory issues. Mr. Wagner is general counsel to the Mississippi Airports Association. Mr. Wagner also helps clients in complying with regulatory requirements in other transportation infrastructure projects.

In addition to his public/governmental law work, Mr. Wagner helps clients in structuring and closing all types of complex financial transactions. Mr. Wagner has significant experience working with lenders and borrowers using federal and state loan guaranty programs, including programs through the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the United States Small Business Administration. Mr. Wagner also represents clients in all types of affordable housing development.

Mr. Wagner’s experience has allowed him to develop an understanding of the organizational and practical considerations necessary to the achievement of a successful and timely result in all types of large and complex projects.

Ryan Waguespack

Senior Vice President of Aircraft Management, Air Charter Services and MROs, National Air Transportation Association

Ryan Waguespack is NATA’s Senior Vice President. He joined the staff of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) as Vice President of Aircraft Management, Air Charter Services and MROs in November 2018. A long-time supporter of the aviation business community and NATA, Ryan Waguespack served as the Chair of NATA’s WorkForce Development Committee and Illegal Charter Task Force, as well as Vice Chair of the Air Charter Committee as an association member. As Vice President, Ryan leads the Association and industry effort to combat illegal charter, working with the FAA and its Field Offices to educate the public on the risks, assisting the FAA in enforcement through data collection and reporting, and leveraging existing data sources to help the agency focus enforcement efforts.

Previously, he served in various operational roles for charter management companies, as well as aircraft sales, working closely with clients to educate them throughout the purchasing process and help them attain the best aviation solution for their needs. Prior to NATA, Waguespack held the position of Vice President of Business Development of Summit Aviation.

Waguespack is the founder of the Alabama Business Aviation Association, an organization dedicated to promoting the value of business aviation throughout the state, educating stakeholders on the value of business aircraft and community airports, and advocating on behalf of aviation businesses.

A staunch champion for promoting aviation workforce development, Ryan travels the country to speak at industry events dedicated to reaching the next generation of pilots, maintainers and business aviation leaders. He is also a frequent guest lecturer at universities nationwide, including Auburn University in the Harbert College of Business, Southern Illinois University, and the University of Dubuque. Through Waguespack’s community-building initiatives at the universities, he is working to develop channels to connect rising students with aviation businesses.

Ryan is a recreational pilot who lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife Amanda and two children.

Brad White

Executive Director, Mississippi Department of Transportation

The Mississippi Transportation Commission unanimously named Brad White Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation effective July 1, 2021. A native of Simpson County, White is a four time Chief of Staff having previously managed the staffs of the Mississippi Department of Audit, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. He also served as Assistant to long-time Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall from 1999 to 2005. 

White is recognized for his past service in the Republican Party having served as a member of the Republican National Committee, and Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party from 2008 to 2011.

White has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Belhaven University, and resides in Madison.