Board of Trustees

As a publicly owned organization, Singing River Health System is governed by a seven member Board of Trustees appointed by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors for five year terms. The system’s Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff – Elect serve as advisors to the board, which meets regularly each month.

Erich Nichols


Erich Nichols J.D., LL.M. is a partner in the law firm of Williams & Nichols, P.A.  Mr. Nichols primarily concentrates in regulatory, business and corporate matters, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property licensing, federal, state and local taxation and a broad range of finance and transactional work, including asset and equity acquisitions, secured and unsecured lending, debt-equity offerings and real estate development.  Particular emphasis in syndicated exempt offerings and related transactions, including the structure and funding of a private equity fund that has acquired and currently manages over Three Hundred Million Dollars ($300,000,000) in real estate assets. Mr. Nichols further advises and represents mobile application and software developers, parties to affiliate marketing arrangements, and structures and drafts technology and intellectual property-related agreements, including license agreements, master service agreements and mobile app development agreements.

Mr. Nichols received his Master of Laws degree in Taxation from the New York University School of Law.  He received his Juris Doctor from Mississippi College School of Law, and his Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering from the University of Southern Mississippi.  Mr. Nichols regularly speaks at business, regulatory and tax-related seminars and is active in his local community. Mr. Nichols is an avid fisherman and pilot.

Don Barron

Vice President

A 1964 graduate of Pascagoula High School, Don attended the University of Mississippi on a baseball scholarship until an early injury cut short his playing and was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity.

Vietnam interrupted his education, and he served in the USAF as a SERE (survival) Instructor and was honorably discharged. Upon returning home, he enrolled at The University of Southern Mississippi and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Marketing in August 1973.

Don has served in various executive leadership positions while living in Mobile, AL and Fairhope, AL. He was Commercial Lending Officer at First National Bank of Mobile, Vice President at Mobile Infirmary Medical Center, Gulf Coast Regional Manager for Baxter Health Care, Regional Marketing Manager for Coca Cola Bottling Company, and President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau.

During his professional and civic career, Don also served on many local, state and national boards and organizations. His areas of expertise are start-ups and reorganizations, lobbying, public affairs, strategic planning and marketing. Before retiring in 2000, he was Owner/Operator of a Quizno’s Restaurant. In 2003 he moved to Pascagoula and has been employed as a Substitute Teacher with the Pascagoula-Gautier School District since 2004.

Don lives in Pascagoula with his wife, Debbie. Together they have three sons, one daughter and ten grandchildren. He is a member of First Baptist Church of Pascagoula where he has served as a Deacon, Usher, Sunday School teacher, choir member, and interpreter for the deaf.

Auwilda Polk, Ph.D.


Dr. Auwilda Mason Polk is a native of Pace, MS, and resides in Moss Point. She graduated from Jackson State University with a Bachelor’s degree in French and Spanish and from The University of Southern Mississippi with Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Educational Leadership. She also did coursework at Mississippi State University and the University of South Alabama.

She has an accomplished educational career, which began as a teacher in Harrison County, continued in Moss Point as teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, and carried on to the Indianola School District, where she retired as Superintendent of Schools. She is a recipient of several tributes and awards.

An active member of St. Paul United Methodist Church and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., she is married to Norris Polk, and they are the parents of two children and five grandchildren.

Steve Ates


Steve is Managing Director of SBA-CCI, Inc. focusing on the group’s global polyester raw material and polyester polymer models. SBA-CCI, Inc. is a consulting firm specializing in the global polyester value stream from aromatic feedstocks through rigid PET packaging. The company also provides custom single client work in the areas of cost modeling, polyester recycling, M&A activity and specialty polymers.

Steve has been involved with the polyester industry for more than 25 years and was the former Chief Operating Officer at Wellman, Inc. from 2008–2011. His experience includes technical service, sales and management experience in the polyester fiber industry, the PET resin industry and the PET recycling industry. He has traveled extensively throughout his career and conducted business in Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Steve earned a BS in Polymer Science from The University of Southern Mississippi and currently resides with his family in Ocean Springs, MS.

Jeffery Belk


Jeffery is a graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in marketing. Jeffery is retired from Chevron as Project Procurement Coordinator and is currently the Business Manager for M&D Construction.

Jeffery is actively involved in the community, including as a Member of the Personal Services Contract Review Board, Chevron Federal Credit Union Advisory Council, Jackson County Republican Executive Committee, and is also a 2011 graduate of Leadership Jackson County.

He has previously served as Chairman of Jackson County Civil Service Commission, a board member of the Home of Grace, Chairman of Chevron Pascagoula Federal Credit Union Supervisory Committee, board member of the Mississippi Minority Business Association, and Chevron Small Business/Supplier Diversity Coordinator.

Jeffery was born in Kreole, MS and lives in Vancleave, MS with his wife, Cindy, and four children.

James Epting


Jim attended and graduated from Perkinston Junior College on an athletic scholarship. Then, he attended the University of Mississippi where he graduated with a BBA in management. He is retired from Chevron, where he served as Manager of Public Affairs.

Jim is actively involved in the community, including being a past member of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Board of Trustees, member of Association of Community College Trustees, past president, past board member and active member of Pascagoula Rotary Club, past president and member of Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, past board member of State Economic Development Council and member of a number of other community organizations.

Jim lives in Pascagoula, MS with his wife, Linda, and has three married daughters and four grandchildren.

Bonnie Granger


Bonnie is a Certified Public Accountant licensed to practice in Mississippi and an attorney licensed to practice in Mississippi and Louisiana. She is a member of the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants, Mississippi Bar Association, and Louisiana Bar Association.

Bonnie is currently working as a Mississippi Department of Education-appointed Financial Consultant for the Tunica County School District and assists various other school districts with financial issues across the state. Additionally, she is employed with Young Law Group, PLLC as an attorney specializing primarily in school law including ad valorem tax issues, debt issues, contract law, and various employment issues. She also teaches Advanced Business Law for The University of Southern Mississippi.

Prior to her current positions, Bonnie served for five years as Managing Auditing Accountant for the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor, thirteen years as School Business Administrator for the Ocean Springs School District, and two years for the Biloxi Public School District. Prior to serving as a School Business Administrator, she served as a Senior Auditing Accountant auditing various school districts for the Office of the State Auditor.

Bonnie graduated from The University of Southern Mississippi in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting/Data Processing. She also obtained her Masters of Professional Accountancy in 1987 from The University of Southern Mississippi. She earned her Juris Doctorate at Loyola University – New Orleans School of Law in 2000.

Bonnie is actively involved in statewide school finance issues and presents many professional development sessions for various school district administrators across the state. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Council of School Board Attorneys.

Bonnie is originally from Angie, LA and currently resides in Ocean Springs, MS, with her husband, Tim, and their daughter. She is actively involved in Belle Fountain Baptist Church where she serves on the Personnel Committee.

David Spencer, Jr., MD

Chief of Staff

A native to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Dr. Spencer, Jr. graduated from the University of Alabama School of Medicine and completed his urology residency at the University of Mississippi. He is certified by the American Board of Urology.

In addition to being a member of the American Urological Association, Dr. Spencer, Jr. is also a member of the Mississippi State Medical Association and the Singing River Medical Society. He currently serves as the Chairmen of the Department of Surgical Subspecialties at Singing River Hospital and on the Medical Executive Committee. Dr. Spencer, Jr. attends patients at our clinics in Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, and Biloxi.

Chief of Staff-Elect

Ijlal Babar, MD

Dr. Ijlal Babar received his medical degree from Aga Kahn University and completed his training at the University of Arizona. He came to Ocean Springs from the University of Arizona in 2003 where he held an academic position as Assistant Professor of Medicine.

Dr. Babar is board certified in Pulmonology, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine. He is the Medical Director of Singing River Pulmonary Critical Care and the Regional Pulmonary Hypertension Center. Dr. Babar has been crucial in Singing River’s expansion of clinical trials and research initiatives and a key player in our fight against COVID-19.