Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes weighs in on 2020


Across the Coast and beyond, 2020 has presented all-around challenges, sparing no city or government, something two-term Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes knows all too well, but the mayor sees light in the tunnel: harbor lights, camera lights, and much more as the city moves forward.

Cruisers have rolled out, but many cities, including Gulfport, were left with a much-needed economic boost to the local economy. Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said, “If Cruisin’ the Coast showed anything, it’s that people really want to get out and need to get out, and I think we can be smart about it. I’m hopeful.”

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Cruisin’ the Coast’s 25th anniversary is just around the corner, but there have been a number of opportunities the city has jumped on over the years, looking into the rearview mirror. “It showed us how we can extend our tourism season, and how we can have folks come year-round. But Harbor Lights, Rusty Walker had a hobby with these computerized Christmas displays, and he suggested, why don’t we find a sponsor and find a way to put it on steroids? The result is the number one Christmas draw in Mississippi, and in the top ten in America.”

And the city has just reached a major milestone in West Gulfport with the approval of the development design and tens of millions of dollars needed to breathe new life into Gulfport’s Job Corps Center. “It is a more-than $30 million dollar investment of federal monies into a Job Corps Center that has been obsolete, used but old, and in need of an upgrade. It’s going to be more than an upgrade. This will be a catalyst for The Quarters.”

For those who prefer transportation on two wheels, Gulfport is gaining ground in the field of ecotourism as seen at the 21-acre bike trail. Mayor Hewes credits Gulfport’s diversified attractions and businesses for softening the overall blow of COVID and helping to keep the city’s overall economy afloat. “We’re able to weather a lot of storms. In Gulfport there continues to be pretty robust development, a lot of people interested in being here. I think that’s a product really of the quality of life we are trying to create, everything from the outdoor nature trails and bike path, disc course, to the Aquarium.”

Wrapping it all up in two years, a multi-million dollar tram connecting the city’s lively downtown area with the south side of Highway 90, including Jones Park.

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Toni started at WXXV News 25 in December of 2013, just three months after the news was launched. She has served as Assignment Editor, anchored for nearly two years, worked as a reporter for several years and hosted Coastal Connections for more than four years. Toni graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern Mississippi where she was editor of the Student Printz. She then did an internship on Capitol Hill, working for a U.S. Senator, then returned to Mississippi as a reporter at WDAM in Hattiesburg. After that, she moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, working as a reporter for FOX 25 in Biloxi, then crossing city lines to work at WLOX-TV news in Biloxi, starting out as a producer, then working as a photographer, reporter, weekend assignment editor and weekend anchor. She was among the station team that won the Edward Murrow and Peabody awards for coverage during Hurricane Katrina. Toni moved to the Lone Star State where she worked as the morning and noon anchor, investigative reporter and live shot reporter for KZTV Action 10 News, then KRIS TV News in Corpus Christi, Texas. Toni moved back to the Magnolia State to be with and take care of her family, working as a multi-media journalist and fill-in anchor at WDBD Fox 40 news in Jackson. After almost completing a second degree in filmmaking at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, Toni transitioned back to news at News 25. Toni is blessed to have a wonderful support network of close family, friends and mentors, and she hopes to pay it forward. She has a three-legged chiweenie named Rocky Balboa because of his fighting spirit. She loves writing and has completed a novel that has been adapted into a screenplay, and has just finished another screenplay called "Delta Rose." She's currently working on a new legal thriller called "Fall From Grace." Stay tuned.... If you’d like to book a live in studio interview on News 25 Today, just email: These interviews can have up to two guests, last about two minutes and showcase community events, non-profit organizations and things of interest to people in our area…and they’re FREE! Just send information about your event, including date, time, location, contact number and/or website for viewers wanting more information, along with the proper name and titles of the person or two people who will be interviewed, and Toni or producer Porsha Williams ( will get back with you via email in a timely manner to book a date. Typical interview times are daily at: 5:45, 6:45, 7:45 or 8:45 am. Guests are asked to arrive about 30 minutes beforehand. You can also ask about booking a live shot on location for news events for our 6 and 7 am newscasts. We look forwarding to having you!