PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 16, 2013

Longtime PA director of utilities operations dies

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Good boss, good friend, knowledgeable and funny. Those are just a few of the words used to describe Kelly Eldridge, Port Arthur’s longtime director of utilities operations who passed away Sunday.

Eldridge, 57, died at Medical Center of Southeast Texas after being admitted to the hospital for pneumonia, though he had been in ill health for some time.

Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Thompson Memorial Chapel of Clayton Thompson Funeral Home. Burial will follow at Greenlawn Memorial Park. Visitation is from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday. at the funeral home.

Eldridge’s health issues prompted him to retire from full-time employment last July, but did not stop him from continuing to help the city when called upon.

After his retirement, Eldridge was often called on in a consulting capacity to assist the city’s utilities needs.

“Even after his retirement he was still lending a hand to the city; he was still helping to serve the community,” Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, Port Arthur mayor, said. “His retirement, and now his death, we were all shocked by it, and hurt by it.”

Eldridge was as much admired for the good person he was, as he was respected to the wealth of knowledge he possessed concerning city infrastructure.

“He was very knowledgeable and very hard working,” John Comeaux, assistant city manager, said. “I don’t think there was anyone around who knew the city’s infrastructure like Kelly did. We are real heartbroken by his passing.”

Charles Shajari, an engineer designer 3 with the city, worked with Eldridge for many years. During that time, the two men became close.

“He was a good friend and boss, and he really cared for Port Arthur from his heart,” Shajari said. “He was my immediate supervisor, me and him grew old together at the city the last 25 years. He was a charming guy as a person, a fun guy to work with, we are going to miss him.”

During his tenure, Eldridge led Port Arthur through many challenges, including two major hurricanes. The devastating damage from hurricanes Rita and Ike could have left the city without water for an extended period of time if not for Eldridge’s knowledge and dedication to his job.

Hurricane Rita hit about two to four o’clock in the morning, but by 10 a.m., the city had water restored, Eldridge said in July at the time of his retirement.

Eldridge, a 1975 graduate of Thomas Jefferson, first started working for the city in 1982 as a technical analyst after graduating from Lamar University in 1980. For 30 of his years with the city, he served as Director of Public Utility Operations, though he was first hired to help implement sewer system upgrades necessitated by a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Kelly gave a lot to the city of Port Arthur, even during his illness. He had been sick a long time, We are praying for his family and we will miss Kelly,” Prince said.

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