Anthony J. Topazi
Chief Engineer of the Little Company That Could
Inducted in 2009
From Alabama Power co-op student to Mississippi Power president and chief executive officer, Anthony J. Topazi has been a Southern Company man whose practice of its corporate mission inspired workers restoring electrical service to Mississippians devastated by Hurricane Katrina to turn a date with terrible connotations into one of hope for the future. His team exceeded his challenge to complete the work in 13 days by restoring service to all in just 12 days. So remarkable was this relatively small company’s ability to respond in the face of the disaster that USA Today ran a cover story, “The Little Company That Could,” about the efforts of Topazi and his colleagues.
It would seem that the whole of Topazi’s career has been in preparation for the challenges presented by Katrina’s destruction. He held a number of positions at Alabama Power, including Western Division vice president. While there, he served as chairman of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority and had a primary role in recruiting the first Mercedes-Benz automotive assembly plant outside of Germany to the state, a move that jump-started that industry in Alabama. This experience would serve him well in his efforts to lead the rebuilding of the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the years after Katrina.
In January 2004, Topazi assumed leadership at Mississippi Power and turned his focus on Mississippi. He was immediately tapped by Gov. Haley Barbour to serve as chair of the newly created organization Momentum Mississippi, a public-private partnership designed to address the state’s long-term economic development needs.
Following Katrina, while serving as vice chair of the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal, Topazi realized that the organizations then in existence were not adequate to deal with the issues facing the post-Katrina business community. To help the hurricane-devastated area rebuild, Topazi spearheaded the formation of the Gulf Coast Business Council, an organization of 230-plus business and community leaders in the three coastal counties. As its chairman, he led the development of the council’s mission to address the critical public policy issues facing the coast through research and a unified business voice in the areas of affordable housing, education, economic development, land use, tourism, and transportation. “We don’t have time to be reactive,” Topazi said. “When we go to elected officials, we must have the facts and solutions to problems.”
Through the Council, Topazi saw the need for, led the creation of, and chaired the Gulf Coast Renaissance Corp., a nonprofit devoted to developing affordable housing and providing down-payment assistance for the area’s workers. In less than two years, he has raised $67 million of capital to carry out its mission. On behalf of the thousands of Boys and Girls Clubs children, Topazi has successfully led a $17 million capital campaign to replace all the organization’s buildings lost in 2005.
A Birmingham native, Topazi is an Auburn University electrical engineering graduate and a member of its Alumni Engineering Council. He and his wife, Patsy, have two sons, Michael and Christopher, and a granddaughter, Evelyn. They are members of St. Thomas Catholic Church in Gulfport, Mississippi.