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STEPHEN HEMELT — Collaborative effort needed to seize 2021 opportunity

What an opportunity we have now that 2021 has begun.

In fact, it has gone beyond opportunity; it’s now a responsibility.

It starts with a steady look in the mirror, especially here at Port Arthur Newsmedia, where our lead vehicles — the Port Arthur News and panews.com — saw a drastic increase in readership.

There were over 2 million more page views at panews.com in 2020 as compared to 2019.

The hardworking residents of Port Arthur and Mid County want to know the important current events impacting them, and leaders across those cities have a duty to clearly express their 2021 goals and subsequent progress.

As a leading news organization for the region and the only one locally based, we must hold our elected leaders accountable, while taking time to celebrate their successes and question progress when it stalls.

The good news is that doesn’t have to come through the result of an adversarial relationship.

We’re all in this together. All of Port Arthur Newsmedia’s staff live locally. This is our home, and these are our stories. We’re motivated to deliver what our neighbors and friends deserve.

And, we’re always open to suggestions and story leads. Please call us at 409-721-2400 whenever there is a story you want to see us cover or you have questions about what is being covered.

We believe in the expectation, shared by so many local leaders in this edition, that 2021 is going to be an amazing year.

We look forward to using our stations in the media to create a collaborative process that welcomes readers and leaders into the same conversation for a fair exchange of ideas. That’s a responsibility we cherish.


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My heart broke when it was reported Luke Letlow died on Tuesday due to complications of COVID-19.

He was 41 and leaves behind a wife and two children.

Letlow’s star was on the rise as he recently won a first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

I first met Luke while attending Louisiana Tech University, and we each ended up graduating from there in 2003.

During that time, he was a member and eventual president of the Louisiana Tech College Republicans while I served stints as sports editor and editor at the college newspaper, The Tech Talk. Our paths naturally crossed as we used the safety and proving grounds of university opportunities to set our own eventual professional paths.

It was clear Luke had a passion for public service, even as a teenager; what was also clear was his plan for action. He didn’t just talk a big game; he backed up what he believed in.

I remember being so happy when our paths crossed again when I took over as publisher in LaPlace, Louisiana, while at the same time Luke was serving as chief of staff for Congressman Ralph Abraham, the man he was destined to succeed in Congress when Abraham chose not to run in 2020.

Now he’s another statistic, lumped in with the hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans due to the coronavirus. But Luke was no statistic, just like the seven Port Arthur and Mid-County residents who lost their lives this week at the hands of COVID-19. They were all more than that.

Please, for the sake of so many wonderful friends and neighbors who passed too soon, wear your mask and practice social distancing.


Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia and can be reached at stephen.hemelt@panews.com or 409-721-2445.