MONIQUE BATSON — City leader’s career reflected in his accomplishments, relationships

Published 12:02 am Friday, December 30, 2022

I first met D.E. Sosa in 2004 when I became the managing editor of the Mid-County Chronicle (may it rest in peace). Sosa had only been the city manager of Groves for about a year at that point, but it wasn’t something I knew at the time. From the first time we spoke, it was clear he was very knowledgeable about city government and Southeast Texas.

I would later come to learn that he was from Port Arthur and had also worked for that city as well as Nederland.

So on Wednesday when we sat in his office surrounded by packed boxes, it was hard not to feel what would soon be his loss. While we were there to reflect on his career, he had been a staple in mine. No matter what publication I worked for, Sosa has been a go-to guy for me for nearly 20 years.

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Whether it be in Groves proper or one of the surrounding towns, he was happy to answer questions each time I called. And if for some reason he didn’t know the answer, he would point me in the direction of someone who did.

He did the same for those who worked around me.

And it was clear on Dec. 22 when he entered into a separation agreement with the city at a special called meeting that he had been that person for many people.

I arrived early, yet still couldn’t find an empty chair in the council chambers. In the 22 years and two months that I’ve been attending city, county and school board meetings; I can’t recall attending one that was at capacity.

The overflow room, which was the front entrance of City Hall, was also packed with dozens of people who were there to show support.

Among them I saw Nederland City Manager Chris Duque and Port Neches City Manager Andre Wimer.

I later joked with our publisher that I was one city manager short of a full set, as I work with city officials across Mid and South counties.

I shared my comment with Sosa Wednesday and he laughed, launching into stories about how closely area city managers work together. I didn’t know Sosa, Wimer and Duque meet weekly — a relationship he said has solved several issues and created cost-effective measures across Mid County.

Although I’m not surprised, as it seems city and school officials across Port Arthur and Mid County are closely intertwined and often work alongside each other for efficiency and support.

That community support proved true Wednesday when I walked in Sosa’s office to find him and Fire Chief Lance Billeaud, who will become interim city manager Jan. 4 following Sosa’s last day before retirement.

“You have both the outgoing and incoming,” Sosa said with a laugh. “You get two for the price of one.”

The two have worked alongside each other for Sosa’s entire career, as Billeaud has been with the Groves Fire Department for 25 years and also serves as the city’s emergency management coordinator.

And the respect the two share for each other was clear before I stepped in that room. When Billeaud agreed to take the interim position on Dec. 22, he told councilmembers, “It’s hard to speak right now based on what’s going on, but I know that it will be a smooth transition with somebody from the city.”

And as Sosa and I talked about his career and Billeaud left the room to take a call, the outgoing city manager used the time to speak about how great Billeaud was and how he was a perfect fit for the position.

Prior to the meeting, I read the article printed in The Port Arthur News in 2003 when Sosa took office. It mentioned the few picture frames he had around his office with him saying he planned to add more.

On Wednesday, the box beside me was filled with framed photographs as others still remained around the room.

“The one thing I’m not looking forward to is packing up this office after 20 years,” he joked. But he smiled as he talked about a new chapter filled with family and “a lot of baseball games.”

So thank you, Mr. Sosa, for letting me be a part of telling your story. And thank you for being such a large part of mine.

Monique Batson is Port Arthur Newsmedia editor. She can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.