HOMETOWN HEROES — City official is driven by her love for Port Arthur
Published 12:30 am Sunday, June 25, 2023
It takes only a few minutes of talking with Cheryl Gibbs to know she’s a proud Port Arthuran.
This love for the city shows in her work as public information officer for the City of Port Arthur and is part of her being.
Memories of growing up in El Vista as one of 10 children and of life in a city that offers so much became a topic of conversation. She noted the joys of going to Pleasure Island, of how her father was one of the carpenters who built Fun Island Depot playground, of the tourist draws such as birding and how Port Arthur was recently declared the Cajun Capital of Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott.
A product of Port Arthur schools, Gibbs attended Lamar University, got a degree and was certified in French, history and English.
She taught school for 12 years and retired in 2002, only to go to work for the city as administrative assistant in the Parks and Recreation Department. She spent five years there, then moved to the Human Resources Department in 2007, where she spent 11 years. Then in 2018 she was asked to serve as the city’s PIO and has been there ever since.
All of these jobs have been important to her, but she attaches a certain level of importance to public information because it involves so much.
“You’re giving out information so people will know when there’s a water outage or its evacuation time,” Gibbs said, noting it is hurricane season.
One of the most important parts of disseminating information came with the pandemic, such as the importance of getting vaccinated.
She said it was such a jolt to America and the world and she put special emphasis on making sure the public knew how to get in touch with the health department.
People were afraid and there were many unknowns, so getting the correct information out was paramount.
“Communication was key to me,” she said. “And being involved in some of the outreach, physically as well as a written outreach, we would go places and say ‘come here, let’s line up’ to get vaccinated. That, to me, was a big part of where I was able to stretch beyond what I would ordinarily do.”
Judith Smith, director of the Port Arthur City Health Department, said Gibbs was helpful with all the news and COVID reports she submitted daily.
“Sometimes the reports would be submitted late, well after hours but she was always available and very helpful getting the reports out to the public,” Smith said. “We were all under pressure but we worked very well together to make sure the public received accurate information.”
Gibbs receives information from multiple sources that she posts to the city’s website. The city also has Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
Some of the recent notices are of construction along U.S. 69 and Texas 73 for the upcoming turbine interchange.
There have also been the updates on the construction of the boat ramps in Sabine Pass, plus the ongoing summer activities in the city.
Her voice picks up a notch as she tells of the many activities this summer at the Port Arthur Public Library and through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
She was one of 12 women from Texas recognized in 2022 for work in public services, particularly for the 2020 Census at the PoliChic Engagement Fund Bravery Brunch.
City Manager Ron Burton commended her in an article last year for the recognition, saying she has done a very good job with public relations and her recognition is fact that she’s made a significant impact.
When not making sure the residents of the city are informed of goings on Gibbs enjoys reading and watching HGTV.
And with that the story goes back to her memories of growing up in Port Arthur.
The family home was built by her father and was small, a two-bedroom for a family with 10 children. Through the years they added on to have three bedrooms and later, six bedrooms. She remembers working with her father on the house and said that’s where she learned carpentry skills.
Gibbs is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta, which is celebrating 75 years in Port Arthur. She is also a member of Thomas Boulevard Church of Christ and is part of the finance ministry.
As a former teacher Gibbs understands the importance of encouragement. But, she said, she’d go beyond that and give an extra push. It’s the building up of people that drives her.
She makes sure to offer encouragement to family, especially the younger nieces and nephews and carries that to her job, where she wants to encourage co-workers, she said.
“A big part of me is encouragement, encouraging people to get involved with your city,” she said.
She encourages participating in the city’s various activities as well as just going out and enjoying the city.