Incoming chairman speaks on Port Arthur’s future, chamber’s growth

Published 12:40 am Thursday, January 12, 2023

Randy Sonnier sees Port Arthur’s potential, as well as what local officials can do to help reach it.

“We have to work in our school districts,” said the incoming chairman for the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. “The numbers are increasing at Lamar State College Port Arthur, but we have to make sure we are getting kids to (the campus).”

Randy Sonnier

And the chamber, he said, is a reflection of what’s happening in the city as membership continues to grow.

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“It shows the city is growing if we’re growing membership, and that continues to increase,” he said. “I think the respect for the chamber continues to grow. I want to give a lot of accolades to (outgoing chairman) Stuart Salter for the work he did last year, and to Pat Avery.”

Avery, CEO and president of the Chamber, and Sonnier have a long history of working together in and for Port Arthur.

“Randy is going to make an outstanding chairman,” she said. “He’s been with the chamber since I was his boss at Total. He’s been a long-time involved member of this chamber of commerce.”

Sonnier works as procurement manager at TotalEnergies, where he’s been for 32 years. He and wife Shari Sonnier have been married 42 years and share two children and three grandchildren.

In addition to his service to the chamber, Sonnier has also been a member of the Nederland City Council since 2021.

“What does Randy bring to the table? He understands business extremely well,” Avery said. “He’s the person Total turns to when a hurricane is headed our way ­— to be able to feed contractors, house them and get the plant up and running. He has a lot of energy, he’s extremely enthusiastic and he’s a real worker bee. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.”

Sonnier will officially begin his term at the chamber’s 123rd annual banquet Jan. 26.

Actor and Port Arthur native G.W. Bailey will be the keynote speaker. As of Wednesday, Sonnier said, the chamber has had more than 600 individuals RSVP.

“I’m pretty sure it’s not me they want to see but G.W. Bailey,” he joked. “But I’m going to claim it’s me.”

The event, which will also honor Port Arthur Independent School District Superintendent Mark Porterie with the Stilwell Award, will serve as the kick-off to celebrate the city’s 125th anniversary.

“The fact that the city is going to be 125 this year is going to take precedence over everything else,” Avery said when addressing upcoming events. “We sold out the Industry Show last year and are on the way to selling that out this year. The goal is to do something spectacular for small businesses for the upcoming year. It’s going to be a very busy year.”

Sonnier said Port Arthur is blessed to be celebrating 125 years.

“It’s hard to imagine we’ve come so far since 1901 Spindletop,” he said. “Port Arthur is a good community to have two tax bases from two Walmarts. You don’t get that often in a city our size. Big boxes continue to grow; restaurants continue to grow. The growth is a direct attribute to what the chamber is doing. I’ve been with the chamber a very long time. I’m very blessed and honored to be in the position to serve as chairman.”