Ingrid Holmes’ last Port Arthur meeting filled with words of thanks, encouragement

Published 12:40 am Thursday, May 18, 2023

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“I said I wasn’t going to cry,” Mayor Pro Tem Ingrid Holmes said as she sat for the last time on City Council.

But she did.

“I just want to say to the citizens of the City of Port Arthur, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as councilmember in a city that I not only grew up in, but in a district that I was raised in,” Holmes said. “I have worked in public service for over 40 years of my life. I started as a phlebotomist at the city health department, and I retired as the Health Director there. I have worked hurricanes; I have worked storms. I have done just a little bit of everything in my service to this community. But the most humbling part of my career was to serve as city councilmember with this group of city councilmembers who have…opened their arms, who have welcomed me to be a part of a team.”

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Holmes on Wednesday finished the last of her first three-year term in office where she represented District 1. The councilwoman, who was also mayor pro tem before a second was chosen at a later time during the meeting, opted not to run for re-election.

Following the May 6 election, the new District 1 Councilman is Willie “Bae” Lewis Jr.

“I think we have accomplished much in the past three years. I think that we have made a difference in this community in the past three years,” she said. “I am not leaving the City of Port Arthur. I will still be here, and I will be an active member of this community. But I will be serving on the other side of the desk.”

She also gave advice for the two new members who joined the bench Wednesday, with two seats undecided ahead of a June 24 runoff.

“What I would like to say as parting words to our seated councilmembers and to our incoming council members: I challenge you to continue the work that many of the councilmembers prior to you have started, and to work together collectively in making decisions that make — as I have always said — Port Arthur the best Port Arthur it can be, because you have some of the best staff members,” she said.

Mayor Thurman Bartie thanked Holmes for her service before bringing laughter to the room.

“I believe we’re going to have a reception following this because we have to allow the newcomers to join, but it was really for you,” he said.

Thomas Kinlaw, who following the election moved from District 3 representative to an at large position, called Holmes his “go-to” for management advice.

“You were director of the health department for a very long time,” he said. “Anytime I’ve called you, you were there for me. I’m going to miss you.

“When I got the call from you and you said you wanted to spend more time with the grandkids and the family and your time has come, I was kind of sad about that. Because looking to my left, I could always get an answer — and a straight-forward one. It’s a bittersweet thing for me today, but I know God has bigger plans for you.”

Councilman Kenneth Marks ran for his first term at the same time as Holmes. Marks will face Harold Doucet in the upcoming runoff.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll just say Ingrid instead of Mayor Pro Tem, because we go way back,” he told Holmes. “We started this journey in municipal government on the (Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors) together, and we moved over here together. During those six and a half years that we’ve been working EDC and City Council, some major events, projects have taken place. And we had our fingers in that pod. And I’d like to think we did a very good job.”

Marks said when the two ran for council three years ago, the residents were looking for a team of leaders who displayed professionalism.

“You epitomized that for us,” Marks said. “You always speak with a soft voice, but it’s a strong voice. And we’re going to miss that.”

Councilman Donald Frank said he and Holmes have known each other many years and have been family friends.

“You’ve always been a constant professional. What you have brought to this board is invaluable,” he said. “Your expertise, the way that you carry yourself and the way that you would give your opinions in meetings is something that we have valued and that will be missed. I will be calling you, of course, on so many various issues for your expertise — especially in the area of healthcare because of what you’ve done. But I wish you well always.”

City Manager Ron Burton thanked Holmes for her insight, foresight and everything she’s brought to the table.

“It makes the life of staff and management much easier in implementing development projects and programs for the City of Port Arthur,” he said. “I’m very thankful to you for that, and I look forward to continuing to work with you as a citizen.”

City Attorney Val Tizeno also thanked Holmes for her years of work.

“As you stated, you grew up here and had the ability to serve in your community,” she said. “And I think that’s what public service is all about.”

City Secretary Sherri Bellard also spoke, calling her work with Holmes a pleasure.

“I’ve seen you work very hard, and I appreciate that you have given the city secretary’s office and my staff the support that you have.” she said. “We will carry that with us as you go to your next journey.”