Ten years ago Mississippi took the brunt of our nation's greatest natural disaster. Hurricane Katrina changed the face of the Mississippi Coast and illuminated the need for leadership and teamwork in government as well as flexibility and cooperation among the public sector, private sector and volunteers from every walk of life. There were two stories. One was looting, conspiracy theories, corruption, government failure, people turning on each other and everyone blaming someone else. The other story was Mississippi.

Former Governor Haley Barbour tells the Mississippi story in his new book scheduled for release in August, "America's Great Storm: Leading Through Hurricane Katrina." Barbour worked with author Jere Nash for the book published by University Press of Mississippi. Ricky Mathews - now publisher of the New Orleans Times Picayune but publisher of The Biloxi Sun Herald during Katrina - provides the foreword. (The Times Picayune and the Sun Herald shared a Pulitzer Prize for their publishing efforts during Katrina.)

Barbour could have written a best-selling political tell all book covering his career as director of political affairs for President Ronald Reagan, or Republican National Committee Chairman, or successful lobbyist, or two-term governor; but, that isn't his style. There are plenty of people who can write behind the scenes political gossip books. But only Barbour could write about this defining chapter in Mississippi's modern history.

Mathews writes in the foreword, "Haley, as he prefers to be called, will go down in history as the gold standard for how a chief executive should lead when the previously unthinkable becomes the undeniable reality. After Katrina, Haley was a man on a mission. We have never seen anyone like him. And if a man is measured by his ability to respond to the worst of times, we may live our whole lives without seeing another elected leader called by such a challenge and answering in such a way....Haley always had an appreciation for the need to move forward together. South Mississippi, he told us over and over, was in control of its own destiny....we arrived at a better place as a result of the leadership of Haley Barbour. This book shows you why."

Barbour covers all the bases in the book from the pre-landfall work none of us would have known about had the storm - as earlier projected - moved across the Yucatan Peninsula instead of plowing through Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast; through the initial impact and rescue efforts; to the local recovery efforts and heavy lifting by the Mississippi federal delegation in Washington, DC. He gives Mississippi legislative leaders - Democrats - their due credit as well.

Barbour reflects on the personal emotional impact of the disaster. He relates crying on the tarmac with Bert Case after an initial helicopter tour of the Coast; the stories of loss and death from victims; his wife Marsha's efforts to help families who had lost everything; and the power of charity and sacrifice of Mississippians who had nothing themselves but wanted help for their neighbors.

He does go behind the scenes in frank terms on the negotiations for relief and recovery aid from Congress. "Tell me what you need, and I'll do my best to deliver," Barbour recalls Senator Thad Cochran telling him two days after landfall at the Governor's Mansion. Cochran had just finished a helicopter tour of the Gulf Coast and told Barbour to put together a plan and he would work to make it happen. Back in Washington, Cochran was Chairman of Appropriations and convened perhaps the only meeting of all of Mississippi's federal delegation to discuss one issue in anyone's memory. The delegation worked together and stayed united and constructed an alliance of southern delegations to pressure House and Senate leadership as well as the White House. Barbour writes when it came down to crunch time in negotiations, "The question now became: Who was going to blink first? Cochran made it clear it would not be him. Ever."

The book also provides a useful compilation of data - both fiscal investment and personal effort - of Mississippians and our out-of-state neighbors. America's Great Storm provides a case study for leadership that goes beyond politics and a definitive resource to understand how government works.

But the whole book sets the stage for the final chapter in which Barbour provides ten leadership lessons. Barbour writes, "Any leader - governor, mayor, CEO of a private business, military officer, or president of the United States - can learn many lessons from dealing with a crisis, especially a megadisaster like Hurricane Katrina. I certainly did, and one reason I wrote this book is to lay out the most important of those lessons learned, or, in many cases, lessons confirmed." I won't list the ten lessons; you'll have to read the boo; because the lessons are more powerful and illuminated in the context of the full Katrina story.



Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.