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.

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 – 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.

Honorable Tom King

Tom King is the Southern District Transportation Commissioner on the Mississippi Transportation Commission. He previously served as a state lawmaker in both the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Mississippi Senate. During his 19 years in the legislature his leadership brokered many bills designed to better the lives of Mississippians. As Chairman of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee, King authored resolutions that honored the achievements of persons throughout his district and the state. Most notably, King authored Senate Bill 3181, the $300 million bond bill for highways and bridges, and Senate Bill 3014, known as the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Act, which promotes safety for cyclists on roadways. King also authored Senate Bill 2514 that created the Mississippi Wireless Communications Commission, which ensures that the state’s emergency responders and law enforcement have the means to communicate regardless of any disaster that may occur. King is a Veteran of the Vietnam War, having served his country in the Air Force as an Air Policeman. He is affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, American Legion and VFW. He has received many professional awards and honors including 2011 Mississippi Municipal League Legislator of the Year, 2010 Hattiesburg’s Veteran of the Year, American Legion Meritorious Service Award in 2007 and Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Legislator of the Year in 2002. In his position as Transportation Commissioner, King represents approximately one million citizens in the southern 27 counties of Mississippi. He is the first Republican to hold the post of Transportation Commissioner in the Southern District. King’s work as Transportation Commissioner has focused on maintaining Mississippi’s transportation infrastructure, job creation and economic development in south Mississippi. King is no stranger to south Mississippi as he was born in Hattiesburg. He attended Petal High School and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree.

Jamie M. Miller

Deputy Director for Governmental Affairs and Chief Innovation 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.

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.