William Edwards resigned as executive director of the Port of Gulfport, Miss., citing a need to relocate to tend to a family illness.

Mr. Edwards submitted his resignation Friday to the port's board of commissioners, which requested he remain on the job until April 30.Mr. Edwards plans to move his family to North Carolina, where he worked as a consultant for a barge towing company before coming to Mississippi in 1989.

The port is in the middle of several expansion projects initiated during Mr. Edwards' term. Among those are a $12 million dredging project to deepen the port's harbor and its entrance from 30 feet to 36 feet. Scheduled to get under way in April, the project will be completed by 1994.

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., which operates a refinery at Gulfport, is involved in a $10 million joint venture with the port to build three 15,000- ton silos to handle ilmenite ore for Du Pont.

Also, two of the port's major cargo handlers, Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Chiquita Brands Inc., have leased a total of some eight acres that is being developed for additional container storage. Blacktop is being laid and electrical outlets installed.

On March 10, local residents will vote on whether to allow dockside gambling in the area, which if approved could bring riverboat gambling to the port.

Mr. Edwards assumed the reins at Gulfport in 1989 with the promise that the tiny port, which is less than 100 miles east of New Orleans, could expand into the container trade.

During Mr. Edwards' tenure, the port's container trade rose to 639,753 tons last year from 572,324 tons in 1989. General cargo increased to 244,605 tons in 1991 from 118,102 tons in 1989.

Mr. Edwards also developed a comprehensive preventive maintenance program for the port that included improvements to rail spurs, warehouse roofs, dock frontage and revamping the port's insurance program for a $2 million savings.