Inauguration speech delivered by Mayor A.J. Holloway, Monday, July 7, 1997 in inauguration ceremonies at the Saenger Theater in Biloxi.
Honorable council members, distinguished judges, guests, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for being here to share in this great occasion.
Today, I want to lay the groundwork for what promises to be four historic years for our great city — even more historic than the four years that we have already seen.
But first, I would
be re-miss if I did not pause a moment to thank you for this tremendous honor — the opportunity and privilege to serve another four years as your Mayor. Today is a bittersweet occasion for me. As I
celebrate with you, with my wife Macklyn and my family, I have to believe that my father is also beaming with pride, even though he is not here — in body — with us today. But with the support and
cooperation of my family, of you, and of the people on this stage, and with the guidance of the Almighty, we WILL accomplish great things.
Four years ago, I made two promises to you — and I feel
that I have kept those promises. Today, right at the outset, I want to renew those two promises.
First, I will never do anything to embarrass this city or its residents.
Second, I will work hard to make Biloxi the very best city it can be.
Let me share a quick bit of history with you. In 1895, the L&N Railroad published a pamphlet about the area between New
Orleans and Mobile. It called Biloxi — quote — “the gem city of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A thriving, energetic little business city with a past history behind it and a bright prospect before
it, such as few cities of this glorious country possess.” At that time, there were — quote — “over 25 miles of fine shell streets.” The article included this comment: “Thus it will
be seen that Biloxi is one of the most wide awake and enterprising little cities in the South.
And it is a remarkably good place for citizens to reside, embark in business or own property.”
That was in 1895 — over 100 years ago.
With all of the construction going on in the city right now, I suppose some of you might be thinking that we still have over 25 miles of fine shell
streets. But this phamplet from 1895 shows just how far this city has progressed. And it shows just how accurate the writer was — a wide awake and enterprising little city. Well, we’re not
“little” anymore. And we’ve come a long way from shell streets. Our reputation is not limited to the South. It’s growing nationwide. These sentiments expressed just over 100 years ago have
special meaning today.
For the last five years, since casino gaming arrived on our shores and into our community, we have witnessed unprecedented development, growth and prosperity in all areas
of our city.
We have seen dozens of new subdivisions come online and hundreds of new homes built. We have seen new businesses open and old businesses expand. We have seen employment increase
dramatically across the board. We have seen our city services INCREASE while our city taxes have DECREASED.
With all of the development, we have PRESERVED our historic sites, and we have RESERVED
our casino gaming zoning. We have been able to maintain what brought us where we are today — the cultural character of our community.
Based on all of these things, this solid foundation — these
tremendous opportunities that we have on our door step — I submit to you today that the next four years will be the most productive and most progressive ever seen in our 298-year-old city.
goal in the next four years — and it’s a goal that we should all embrace — is to help elevate this city to world-class status. To realize that goal, we must continue to make progress on our many local
projects. Today, I’m going to pledge to you that we are going to see great things happen by doing everything we can. Popp’s Ferry Road will be widened and well-lit.
Bayview Avenue will be
straightened out, well-lit and invite dozens of new businesses and thousands of new visitors to Back Bay. A new Public Safety complex will be built on Howard Avenue, and a new facility will be built on
Popp’s Ferry Road to improve our fire and police protection in that area. We’re going to continue our work on rebuilding, repairing and expanding our streets and infrastructure throughout the city, and
we are going to work hard on keeping our north-south and east-west projects on track.
Our Biloxi Home PRIDE program will help rehabilitate 300 homes for low and moderate income residents. This
will be the largest rebuilding program that this city has seen since Hurricane Camille. And, we’re not stopping there. We’re going to help strengthen families living inside those homes. A new program
teaming the public and private sector, and social service agencies will help steer at-risk juveniles in the right direction — in school, and out of harm’s way. The youth of today are the leaders of
tomorrow. They are our greatest asset. Along those lines, as a former high school and college athlete, I appreciate the importance of recreation.
You are going to see a first-class Community
Center and recreation facility on Pass Road in West Biloxi, and you are going to continue to see major upgrades and expansion of all of our parks and recreation facilities throughout this city.
All of our hard work and preparation will be coming together as we celebrate our Tricentennial.
Can you imagine? Three hundred years — and we will be realizing our greatest achievements.
Everything will be coming together. I am committed to making these things happen — and that they take place as we continue to take care of the day-to-day business of providing quality service to the
citizens of Biloxi.
Of course, having been your mayor for the past four years, and having served on the City Council for four years, I realize that no one person can do it all alone.
make these great things happen, it’s going to take a renewed spirit of cooperation between the Mayor’s office and the City Council.
Since we have gone to the Mayor-Council form of government 16
years ago, we have seen some lively debate in Council meetings.
That’s what good government is all about. We cannot let disagreements stand in the way of progress. I pledge to you today, and to
the members of the Council, that my administration will work with you in doing the right thing for the residents of the City of Biloxi.
We may not always agree on every issue, but there CAN be
room for compromise and there MUST be room for doing the right thing.
For myself and all of the other officials sworn in here today I suggest that we remember our first obligation.
strange as it may sound, our first obligation is NOT to you, the public. Our first obligation is to TRUTH, to JUSTICE, to REASONABLENESS, to a generosity of spirit, and to a VISION for the future. We
have a moral responsibility to communicate that to the citizens of Biloxi. We have a moral reponsibility to do the right thing.
Every decision that we make in City Hall affects someone, and we
must always remember that. It will not always be easy, but I would suggest to all of us that if we are never willing to risk losing the office we hold, we probably do not deserve to hold it at all. You
know, this community has always been at its best in times of adversity. Look at our history. More than 50 years ago, when our country was facing World War II, we all pulled together and convinced the
federal government of the importance of a military installation here in Biloxi.
Today, our Keesler field is home to the Second Air Force and a leader in its mission. (Keesler, I want to remind
you, continues to make more of an impact on this community than any other sector of our economy.)
When Hurricane Camille decimated our city, we rallied again. Together, we rebuilt this Coast
house-by -house and street-by-street.
And just last year, when it looked as if we might not get our new north-south connector road, we all rallied again. Working together, we got that road
approved and funded.
History CLEARLY illustrates how well we have worked together in times of crisis. Just think of how much we can accomplish if we work together when things are going great, as
they are now.
Now, I’ve outlined for you my vision of Biloxi — where we have been, where we are, and where we can go.
But, as I said, your Mayor and your City Council can’t do it all.
We’re dependent on you and your neighbors. We’re dependent on our partners in the business community — the casinos, the service industries and even the small family businesses.
Together we ALL play an important role in making Biloxi the best city that it can be.
In words and action YOU are the ones who make our city the charming and inviting place that it is for
visitors, and the great place to live, work and play. What can we all do everyday to make Biloxi a better place for us to live and for tourists to visit? Frankly, it’s simple. It’s as simple as keeping
your neighborhoods and yards and your businesses litter-free and your sidewalks swept.
Our city has a long tradition of being a first-class weekend getaway, a resort for folks within driving
distance. Today, we are well on the road to becoming a WORLD- CLASS destination resort. The casino industry is the engine that is driving our economy, but casinos CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be all that there
is to Biloxi. Just look around at the things that make this city great. Our easy-going, friendly and colorful people. Our majestic oak trees. Our sugar-white sand beach. Our rich history and historic
sites. Our inviting hospitality industry. The sight of the Biloxi Schooners sailing in the Sound. Our shrimping fleet.
We must show our pride COMMUNITYWIDE. And one of the key ways to do that is
by paying attention to the details. Think twice before you toss that candy wrapper out the car window. Pick up that piece of paper outside your fence.
Why not adopt the median in front of your business?
We must make the effort to keep our city clean and litter free. Frankly, by asking you to do this, I’m not asking for a favor.
everyone’s DUTY to do these things. EVERYONE. You, me and the person sitting next to you.
At City Hall, we’re going to do our part to lead the way. As one of my first official acts in my new term
as your Mayor, I am going to sign an executive order creating the Mayor’s B Team. That’s B for Biloxi and B for beautification.
We are going to place a greater emphasis on not only fighting
litter in our city but on beautifying our community. Our highly-traveled rights of way at exits along Interstate 110, along Highway 90, at Cedar Lake Road and in other high profile areas. These places
are our front yards.
We want our visitors to be impressed with what they see and, more importantly, we want our residents to be proud of where they live.
In conclusion, let’s remember
these things as we celebrate here today, when we leave here and lay our heads down tonight. And when we wake up tomorrow and get ready to start a new day.
Biloxi is better off than it has ever
been. In 1895, that writer said we had a bright future. I say the future is now. These casinos are spending millions of dollars to attract visitors to Biloxi, and the city is spending millions on
improvements. But as I’ve said here today, and since I became mayor four years ago. We can’t do it all. It takes a team. We are truly in control of our destiny.
These next four years — as
historic and record-setting as I believe they can be — will only be as great as we make them. Together, we HAVE done it. And together we can CONTINUE to do it.
God bless each of you and God bless Biloxi.