STEPHEN HEMELT — Port Arthur’s 125th birthday should be a celebration of what’s to come

Published 12:06 am Saturday, May 20, 2023

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“My attitude is to create an environment where we are not just ‘making it’ or achieving at a level where some are successful and others are not; we should be positioning ourselves to set the standard for others to run to catch up with us.”

That’s how Dr. Johnny Brown described it to me when we talked this week.

He has a specific mindset when it comes to capturing the potential of the City of Port Arthur.

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Brown feels we must “think and act like champions, where we are the pace setters for others.”

That’s how our conversation ended, and it was a fitting sendoff as we at and The Port Arthur News cover and celebrate the 125th birthday of the city we all share and love.

Brown is an Austin native and former superintendent of Port Arthur Independent School District. The multi-time author is certainly more than just talk, having just successfully won election to the PAISD Board of Trustees.

He is ready to help spur action. Our city first reached Brown’s radar when he was working and living in Atlanta.

He was impressed by and proud of the community, specifically in terms of relationships amongst the colleges — including Lamar University and Lamar State College Port Arthur — and the business community and parents. He felt they were working in cooperation with school district leadership to provide resources and support for youth.

“While I was impressed, I also saw room for improvement and I believe the potential remains for improvement to occur,” Brown told me.

“I believe I have the background and passion for making a difference in supporting our youth. I am part of the community, I live in the community and I am of the community in the sense that I have been here for 17 years. I believe each adult has a responsibility to reach out and provide support where he or she is capable of providing such support.”

That sentiment is key when celebrating Port Arthur’s 125th birthday.

There have been great things that have occurred over the last century-plus, but it’s all for naught if the next 125 years don’t provide opportunities for our family members and neighbors to thrive here at home.

So it’s with excitement that we celebrate our city’s birthday with all the fanfare it deserves.

That starts next week.

Organizers ask local residents to join them Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. when everyone is invited to “Popeye” Holmes Park in downtown Port Arthur next to the Jefferson County Sub-Courthouse. There will be plenty of birthday cake and ice cream.

Organizers say Dwight Wagner is going to lead the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday.”

There will also be children’s games and a Port Arthur History Trivia Contest, among so much more.

It’s sure to be a special celebration. One that is a precursor to what could be many future years worth celebrating.

The prospects for Port Arthur’s potential are plain to see with major expansion projects within the city’s elementary campuses, high schools and college.

There are also numerous multi-billion dollar expansion and construction projects set in the world of LNG.

It’s up to us to be active in this potential, less all of the progress will be lost.

That’s what Brown shared with me when thinking about his own career in education.

“I just decided the time is now for me to reach out to offer my support for making a positive difference in moving things forward for the district,” he said. “I am proud of the good things going on, and yet I see room for improvement. I would like to make a difference in making that happen by putting the resources as well as the conditions in place to make that happen.”

The more people in Port Arthur who practice a similar philosophy, the better things will be for everyone in the city.

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes, The Port Arthur News and Greater Port Arthur The Magazine. He can be reached at or 409-721-2445.