Long Beach Chamber names annual award recipients
By Dom Fimiano
The Long Beach Chamber of Commerce recently hosted their annual Breakfast with the Mayor. Long Beach Chamber Director Gabrielle Rose and Chamber Chair Michelle Kinsey welcomed honorees, guests and participants.
In addition to the Mayor of Long Beach giving the yearly State of the City address, the breakfast also featured the Citizen of the Year award, as well as utility and first responders of the year awards.
University of Southern Mississippi’s Senior Vice President of Coastal Operations Dr. Shannon Campbell thanked the City of Long Beach and Mayor Bass for the dedication working with the USM Long Beach Campus and promoting the university’s presence in the community. Dr. Campbell announced the University of Southern Mississippi’s financial commitment to the coast campus and explained that USM is in the process of adding sidewalks around the campus connecting the east and west sides of campus, promoting easy access for everyone. A goal is for the City of Long Beach and the USM Campus is to have greater interactions on campus and within Long Beach.
Long Beach Mayor George Bass announced Tash Solangi for the prestigious 2021 Arline Doherty Citizen of the Year Award. Solangi is a Long Beach High School alumnus who attended Louisiana State University, studying electrical and computer engineering. Later, he earned a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi. Solangi attributes his success to the excellence of the Long Beach School District and has returned home to raise his family in Long Beach. Bass stated Tash Solangi has volunteered over 2,000 hours in Long Beach for the betterment of children and the community, while working as an engineer for Naval Oceanographic Operations at Stennis Space Center. Some of Solangi’s volunteer activity includes being Scoutmaster for Long Beach Boy Scout Troop 205, Long Beach High School Representative for the LBSD parent Action Committee and the Junior Tennis Team Coach.
Long Beach Utility and First Responders of the Year Awards were announced by Public Works Director Joe Culpepper, Fire Chief Griff Skellie, Police Chief Billy Seal, and AMR Chief Billy Shipp. The award winners are selected based on employees’ commitment to excellence, dedication and providing exceptional service for the City of Long Beach.
The Public Works Employee of the Year for 2021 is Steven Smith. Culpepper said Smith does whatever it takes to successfully complete his work. Culpepper said Smith is dedicated, talented and trustworthy, and he makes himself available, regardless of the hour; it is not uncommon for Smith to get an emergency call at 2 a.m. Culpepper said Smith is a true leader and is currently in charge of identifying all city water and sewage lines, serving close to 7,000 homes. Correct identification of the lines is crucial to saving the City thousands of dollars by preventing damage and eliminating the City’s liability if a contractor damages the water or sewage lines. Smith is currently marking about 100 miles of water and 100 miles of sewage lines so that AT&T and CSpire can safely install fiber optic lines for all residents of Long Beach.
Justin Platt was named the Long Beach Firefighter of the Year. Fire Chief Skellie said that Platt is a go-to guy, regardless of the project size. Platt recently completed hazmat training and additional training courses with ease; and, even though it has been difficult for first year firemen to participate in training due to COVID, Platt has sought out training opportunities. Outside of the department, Skellie said that Platt performs outstanding work in the community. Recently, Platt immediately asked to assist areas devastated by Hurricane Ida. He was able to assist and relieve other first responders in Louisiana.
Officer Jeremy Bammert and Officer Ryan Butler were named the Long Beach Police Officers of the Year. Police Chief Seal announced these men as police officers of the year because of their professionalism, courage, and commitment to safety while protecting the City of Long Beach. Seal stated the officers responded to a road rage incident on Beach Boulevard that ended after a police chase and the suspect initiating a shootout. The officers maintained control while following procedure and immediately provided CPR when the shooter was injured. Their actions saved the life of the individual attempting to do them harm.
Carrie Robinson was recognized as AMR’S Southern Gulf Coast District employee of the year. Chief Billy Shipp said that Robinson has been with AMR for fifteen years and has twenty-three years of experience as a dispatcher. Shipp said Robinson is a passionate, knowledgeable, confident AMR professional who exceeds expectations with a sense of humor that lightens the room.
Mayor Bass’s State of the City Address included information about ongoing projects, as well as new projects set to begin. He said the administration has been successful obtaining grant funding and working to receive additional grants.
The Harbor is moving forward working with FEMA and MEMA to clear the harbor and rebuild bigger and stronger using modern technology and equipment. Bass said the upgrades will help eliminate destruction after every storm.
Road projects are progressing, with plans to widen Klondyke Road, replace the bridge and widen 28th Street. Mayor Bass thanked the owner of the Castine Point Development for donating land along Klondyke and 28th Street for the road widening project.
The Five Point Intersection at Pineville and Larosa will be improved for safer traffic flow, and the intersection at Klondyke and Commission is part of the road widening project. Studies concerning returning intersections to traffic signals or leaving them with only stop signs are progressing. Community input and preferences are desired and will be taken into consideration.
Bass reported that the Beach Boulevard Gateway Project is preparing to start bidding, and also said that continuous work is being done to improve drainage.
Bass also announced Long Beach will be the first city on the Coast to correct railroad crossing inclines. The improvements will help prevent long vehicles, low riders and commercial trucks from bottoming out on railroad track crossings. He said these current and new projects will work to improve community safety, while promoting Long Beach and improving the quality of life for everyone.