Replacing W. Martin "Marty" Wiseman as director of Mississippi State's John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development might be a near-impossible challenge.
That's why P. Edward "Eddie" French, the recently named interim director, said he isn't even going to try.
French served the institute as a Stennis Scholar for Local Government since the associate professor of political science and public administration came to the university in 2006.
"Marty Wiseman is a legend; everyone in the state knows Marty," French said. "He was the director at Stennis for 22 years, and he has institutional knowledge that cannot be easily replaced.
"So, I'm not going to try to replace Marty, but the Stennis Institute is going to have the same services available, and we hope people will see only a small difference. My goal is to get out in the state and get to be known," he continued. "I'm looking forward to working with people in small and large communities, and I am honored to work with the great staff in place at the institute."
French, who holds an MSU doctoral degree in public policy and administration, said his research and expertise focuses on the roles and responsibilities of elected officials and administrators, as well as the motivations of government employees. His research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed academic journals, including Public Administration Review and Public Integrity, among others.
Additionally, he serves as editor-in-chief for Public Personnel Management, a SAGE Publications journal. The peer-reviewed quarterly presents the latest trends in human resources with case studies and new research.
French also is a member of the editorial boards of State and Local Government Review and Review of Public Personnel Administration, among other roles.
Along with his MSU teaching and research duties, French serves as the graduate coordinator in the political science and public administration department.
French grew up on a cattle farm in Bristol, Va. He earned his bachelor's in political science at the University of Tennessee and his master's in city management from East Tennessee State University. He served as a local government manager in Virginia, where he supervised day-to-day operations, developed community budgets and worked with community planners and council members.
After he was asked to teach a class in municipal risk management in addition to his government manager duties, French said he realized how much he enjoyed teaching. He then returned to the University of Virginia to earn a second master's in higher education. French first met Wiseman when he came to MSU to earn his doctorate in public policy and administration.
"Combine my local government background with my academic studies, plus my experiences as a Stennis Scholar, and you'll see, I'm a local government person," he said. "Stennis is a place where we look at issues from a policy approach with a nonpartisan point of view, and we're a research-oriented team that's going to let the data speak for itself."
French has been honored numerous times during his tenure at MSU. Students voted him the Outstanding Political Science/Public Administration Graduate Professor of the Year in 2009, 2011 and 2013, and he received the MSU President's Faculty Diversity Award in 2012.
He was also awarded the Clinton Wallace Dean's Eminent Scholar Award in 2011 and the College of Arts and Sciences' Researcher of the Year for Social and Behavioral Sciences Award in 2010.
When not involved with campus duties, French and his wife Amy like to relax at their Black Angus farm. Their daughter and son-in-law, both MSU alumni, reside in Southaven.