2020 Virtual 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.

Thomas M. Booth, Jr., PE

Aeronautics Director, MS Department of Transportation

Mr. Booth joined the Aeronautics Division of the Mississippi Department of Transportation as an Airport Engineer in October 1999.  In January, 2002, he was moved to Assistant Director and became the Director of Aeronautics in July, 2007.  His duties include coordination of airport improvement projects for public use airports with the FAA and assistance to consultants and airport officials with FAA airport design criteria.  He also reviews airport layout plans and inspection reports for the public-use airports statewide.

Mr. Booth is affiliated with the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) where he serves on the Finance Committee, the UAS Committee, the Airports, Planning, Development and Operations Committee, and is a member of the AASHTO Council on Aviation.  In FY2013, he served as the National Chairman on the NASAO Board of Directors.  He has served on the Delta State University Aviation Advisory Board and is currently serving on the Hinds Community College UAS Advisory Committee.

Mr. Booth is a 1985 graduate of Mississippi State University with a degree in Civil Engineering.


American Association of Airport Executives, Senior Executive Vice President, Global Operations

Spencer Dickerson is the Senior Executive Vice President for Global Operations for the American Association of Airport Executives. He has served in senior AAAE management positions since 1981. He oversees all aspects of AAAE’s international programs and the U.S. Contract Tower Association. He holds a bachelor degree in economics and history from Coe College and a master’s degree in Public Policy from The George Washington University. Spencer and his wife Carol reside in Alexandria and have a daughter who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs
State Health Officer, Mississippi State Department of Health

Dr. Dobbs is an Infectious Diseases physician with 20 years of experience in public health, with specific expertise in TB and HIV.   He served as a regional health officer in Mississippi from 2008 – 2012 and as State Epidemiologist from 2012 – 2016.  From 2016 – 2018 Dr. Dobbs worked as a clinician and Chief Medical Officer / Chief Quality Officer for a local health system.  In addition to his role at the Department of Health, Dr. Dobbs is an Associate Professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Population Health, teaching courses in Epidemiology and Health Policy.

John W. (Jay) Eads

Program Director, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Hinds Community College

Jay Eads joined the Hinds Community College team on January 1, 2020, as Program Director, Unmanned Aircraft Systems. He served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, where he flew the A-7 Corsair II in both operational and training roles. After his Naval Service he managed projects in the United States and Iraq, served in the Mississippi State Legislature, and worked for the Mississippi Secretary of State, and Attorney General. Throughout his career he has taught college level classes at the University of Mississippi, in addition to attorney Continuing Legal Education classes and FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification classes.

He received a Bachelor of Science Degree from the U.S. Naval Academy (1974), Masters Degrees from the U.S. Naval War College (1988), Salve Regina University (1988), a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law (1997) and an Associate’s Degree from Hinds Community College with a concentration in Unmanned Aerial Systems (2019).

He is an FAA certified Advanced Ground Instructor and Part 107 Remote Pilot.



U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),  Chief of Staff to Administrator

Mandy Gunasekara is a veteran Republican strategist and communicator with extensive experience in environmental issues. Most recently, Mrs. Gunasekara founded the Energy 45 Fund, a Jackson, Mississippi-based non-profit dedicated to informing the public about the energy, environmental and economic gains made under the Trump Administration.

Prior to Energy 45, Mrs. Gunasekara served as EPA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. While at EPA, she spearheaded many of the Trump Administration’s greatest energy and environmental policy achievements, including the Affordable Clean Energy rule. Mrs. Gunaskera also previously served as Majority Counsel for Chairman Inhofe, where she led committee actions and policy development on Clean Air Act and climate change issues.

A native Mississippian, Mandy earned a J.D. from the University of Mississippi School of Law and a B.A. from Mississippi College.

Kim D. Jackson

Federal Security Director, TSA – Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers Intl Airport (JAN)

Kim D. Jackson is the Federal Security Director (FSD) at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (JAN) in Jackson, MS.

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.

Colonel Stephen “Lux” Luxion

Executive Director, ASSURE (Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence)

Colonel (Retired) Stephen P. Luxion is the Executive Director of ASSURE (Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence) led by Mississippi State University. Steve is responsible for leading the alliance of 23 of the world’s leading research universities and its industry partners. ASSURE is the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). ASSURE provides the FAA a wide-ranging UAS research portfolio and conducts specific research funded by the FAA to help inform and address the key challenges to safely and efficiently integrating UAS into the National Airspace System. ASSURE also has established a non-profit arm of the Alliance that leverages the ASSURE team, its expertise, experience, and knowledge to serve others outside the FAA.

Lux is a 34 year US Air Force veteran with over 2,500 hours flying time in the F-111 Aardvark, MQ-1B Predator UAV; and the F-14A Tomcat and EA-6B Prowler while on exchange with the US Navy; including 700 hours combat time in operations over Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. For his combat efforts, Colonel Luxion was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for Valor, 4 Air Metals, and 7 Aerial Achievement Medals. 

Steve received his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1984. Colonel Luxion has commanded at the squadron, group and center levels and helped lead the establishment of NATO’s first Aerospace Center of Excellence. Steve retired from the US Air Force in 2014 from his last assignment at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach where he commanded the Reserve Officers Training Program.

Colonel Luxion is a distinguished graduate of both the USAF Fighter Weapons School and Air Command and Staff College. He is also a graduate of four Master Degree programs from Embry-Riddle, the School of Advanced Airpower Studies, and the National War College.


Greg Pecoraro

President & Chief Executive Officer, NASAO

Greg joined NASAO in early 2020 as the organization’s President and CEO, and is excited to join one the oldest and most consequential aviation organization in the nation. Greg brings to NASAO more than 25 years of government relations and executive experience in the aviation and transportation sectors, both in government and associations. He served as vice president of government affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, as assistant secretary for Administration at Maryland Department of Transportation, as well as in other key leadership positions in the public and private sectors. In these roles, he has worked extensively across the Aviation community, with policymakers at every level of government, and with other association leaders. Greg has also been active in a variety of civic and community activities, including service on the City Council in Westminster, Maryland; as a Trustee of the YMCA Youth Foundation of the Central Atlantic Area; and as a member of the Friends Advisory Committee of the Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries.

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.