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Freeman farewell: Mayor Derrick Freeman departs public life with Port Arthur city council’s admiration

Derrick Freeman left public office Tuesday with the expressed gratitude and admiration of those with whom he worked closest — the other six members of the Port Arthur City Council.

“What you’ve brought to the council, you’ve been able to deal with the council in a fashion in which you allow people to discuss things. You allow people to talk,” said Mayor Pro Tem Harold Doucet, who waged some epic disagreements with Freeman during the mayor’s sole, three-year term. “You take everything with a smile, and a lot of people can’t do that.”

In fact, Doucet said, he could not do that.

“You’d come in here with that smile and I’d say ‘What are you laughing about?’ You look at him and all you see is teeth.”

That smile, Doucet conceded at the close of Tuesday’s council meeting, led him to enjoy working with the mayor, even differing outlooks and through the hardships of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, for which, he implied, Freeman took undeserved blame.

Freeman speaks with, from left, Fire Chief Larry Richard, left, Deputy Police Chief Michael Fratus and Police Chief Tim Duriso. (Ken Stickney/The News)

“You worked through one of the worst tragedies we’ve seen in Port Arthur,” Doucet said. “The mayor doesn’t run the city of Port Arthur. Hopefully, one day citizens will realize that.

“You came by at the right time. You left an impression on all of us. Your enthusiasm and your energy was something that I really enjoyed working with. You brought that with us.”

Freeman, who has served on the City Council since 2011, the last three years as mayor, told councilmembers he appreciated all of them.

“This has been the experience of a lifetime,” he said. “Once the results came back there was a humongous relief.”

But, he said, he appreciated the council’s advice, support and friendship and “ask you do the same thing for the new mayor.”

Freeman lost his bid for re-election to former Justice of the Peace Thurman Bartie, who carried 54 percent of the runoff vote. Freeman led the five-candidate field in the May 4 General Election.

The departing mayor — Bartie will take the oath Wednesday — expressly thanked his mother, Deborah Freeman, who campaigned steadfastly through the campaign despite battling breast cancer, as well as his wife Shannon, who weathered a breast cancer scare of her own before being cleared with good news last week.

“I couldn’t have done it without you, without the family,” he said to his wife from the dais, recollecting long nights away from his family while holding office. “Thank you for all the sacrifices. … I am thankful for the opportunity to do things with my family. I will make it up to you.”

The mayor’s mother, Deborah, left, and wife Shannon, right, flank Freeman at Tuesday’s reception. (Ken Stickney/The News)

Other councilmembers expressed their well wishes to the mayor:

  • District 7 Councilmember Charlotte Moses: “I watched you maneuver, work and was very impressed with how you served with your heart and how you loved the city of Port Arthur.”
  • District 8 Councilmember Kaprina Frank: “I appreciate your service. There are a lot of things I admire about you — your personality and charisma — but I admire how you love your family.”
  • District 3 Councilmember Thomas Kinlaw: “A lot of people take for granted the commitment and dedication (involved in public service.) With you, mayor, you handled it with class and dignity. It was an extreme honor.”
  • District 2 Councilmember Cal Jones: “Derrick, I appreciate you and how much you mean to me. Actions speak louder than words. … You did so much.”
  • District 1 Councilmember Raymond Scott: “I saw growth throughout the whole time you were on council. You had a lot to do at times. I realize a young man like you with family to take care of, you did a lot of jobs. You carried a lot on your shoulders and you carried it well.”