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Port Arthur, community leaders celebrate Pat Avery’s positive regional impact

The last two Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce annual banquets have packed the Bob Bowers Civic Center, reigniting support among small businesses and large industry.

Elected leaders, longtime staff members and community stalwarts have noticed the support, which has been led by Pat Avery.

The former energy company executive and business consultant took over as Chamber CEO/President March 11, 2019. Her impact has been tangible in a little more than two years, leading Mayor Thurman Bartie to declare today (April 27, 2021) as “Patricia Avery’s Day.”

The designation was made official this morning by the Port Arthur City Council.

Former Chamber Board Chairman Ron Fletcher of Entergy said Avery’s leadership from the very beginning of her tenure has greatly contributed to the betterment of the local and regional community.

“She championed a number of causes on behalf of local businesses, such as the Highway 69-Highway 73 cloverleaf entrance-exit, the high cost of windstorm insurance on our community and the benefits of the Sabine-Neches Waterway, just to name a few,” Fletcher said.

A Zoom screengrab from Tuesday’s city council meeting shows Pat Avery, seated, speaking with the council. She is joined in back, from left, by Joe Tant, Paige Snyder and Joliana Reyes of the Chamber.

“In 2020, during the COVID 19 pandemic, she started a Small Business Forum where local small businesses could receive up-to-date information for applying for governmental grants and loans from subject matter experts. Pat (Avery) continues to make a lasting positive impact on many areas of our community.”

The proclamation signed today from City Hall reads, in part, “Ms. Patricia Avery has obtained an exceeding level of credibility and gratitude from the City of Port Arthur, its neighboring cities, and Southeast Texas.”

Joe Tant, who has worked for the Chamber for ten years and serves as financial manager and executive director of The Port Arthur Education Foundation, said the Chamber is enjoying greater acceptance in the community.

According to Tant, the Chamber and Avery shined during the pandemic by continuing to help members through social media and outreach efforts.

He cites Avery’s ability to change and take in all viewpoints as true sources to her success.

“She has been able to listen and get involved with small business, and for us, our small businesses were hurting during the pandemic,” Tant said. “She was able to listen to her staff, the community and some of the community leaders and help us figure out a way to help those folks. That was a true testament style. It’s not always ‘me, me, me’ or ‘my way, my way, my way.’ She would literally go, ‘what would work?’ and we would put it forward and it would work. It was great.”

Avery’s honor was kept secret as part of a surprise announcement this morning at the Port of Port Arthur.

During a Zoom meeting with the Port Arthur City Council, Avery thanked the mayor and city council.

“I’m humbled by this recognition — I have no idea,” she said of the surprise. “I’m so grateful to be part of the city of Port Arthur and help any way I can to make this city the best city. I just want to say how grateful I am.

“As a personal note, I lost my 24-year-old niece and 4-year-old great niece on this date in 2011. So it’s a very special day, and I feel like they are here with me.”

Bartie noted that it was divine intervention for this date to be chosen to honor Avery.

Mayor Pro Tem Charlotte Moses said it’s a joy to work with Avery.

“You so deserve it for everything you’ve done,” Moses said of Avery’s honor. “I’m praying for this to be a day of turnaround for  you and a day that you can enjoy.”

— Monique Batson and Chris Moore contributed to this report.