Port Arthur chamber’s Pat Avery announces retirement, shares what she’ll miss most

Published 12:30 am Thursday, September 7, 2023

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For Pat Avery, who has led the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce since 2019, retirement will be bittersweet.

“It will be bittersweet because I love Port Arthur,” Avery said of her retirement that will happen later this year. “Our Chamber is fantastic. My board is amazing. We have a great staff. It’s very bittersweet. I’m sad and happy all at the same time.”

This will mark the third time Avery, 67, has retired. She previously worked at Mobil as an employee relations representative in Houston and worked her way up the corporate ladder to become the first woman and first minority manager of employee relations at Mobil’s Chemical Specialty Division in Beaumont, and later manager of human resources at Mobil’s Polyethylene Plant in Beaumont, according to biographical information.

From left: Port Arthur Fire Chief Greg Benson, Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce CEO Pat Avery and Mayor Thurman Bartie attend the groundbreaking ceremony for Entergy in April 2023. (Monique Batson/The News)

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She moved on to Total Petrochemicals & Refining, holding several positions before serving in community and government affairs.

Thus came her first retirement.

But by 2013 she reentered the job market and joined Griffith Moseley Johnson & Associates as vice president, global business development and represented a number of industry clients.

And she retired a second time.

By March 2019 she was the president/CEO of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce.

Randy Sonnier, current chairman of the Chamber, said Avery’s knowledge of the oil and gas industry made her a strong leader.

Sonnier commended Avery on her work as a leader and during Golden Triangle Days in Austin, where she was an advocate for the city and area.

Golden Triangle Days in Austin is a collaboration of Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange, where leaders visit the state capital during a legislative session, hold informational sessions on topics important to the area and visit Texas House of Representatives and Senate.

Topics typically range from economic development and education and workforce to health care, environmental quality and stewardship and transportation and infrastructure.

Verna Rutherford and Albert Thigpen, front, stand with Pat Avery in front of the Port Arthur City Council to discuss the city’s 125th anniversary celebration plans. (Monique Batson/The News)

Sonnier said Avery went to different hearings and presented facts.

The chamber president/CEO and Chamber chairman have known each other for a number of years, back to when Avery was his manager and now it’s the other way around, he said with a laugh.

Sonnier said he will miss the back and forth banter he and Avery have.

The Chamber board is actively looking for a new president/CEO, and Sonnier said that will be a hard role to fill — trying to find someone with the industry background like Avery.

Avery is also vocal on things that needed to be corrected and provide suggestions on how to make things better.

“It makes it pretty easy on the executive board to take care of business,” Sonnier said. “I will miss our conversations.

Avery said she’s looking to retire around Thanksgiving but could stay a little longer until a new CEO is hired.

The Chamber has been successful and held well-attended events, some of which include the Industry Show, Legislative Luncheon, Leadership Breakfast, various luncheons and more.

From left: Dana Espinal, director of the Lamar State College Port Arthur Small Business Development Center, and Pat Avery, CEO of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, celebrate America’s Small Business Development Day in 2022. (Monique Batson/The News)

Avery has a number of things planned upon retirement.

“Several people have asked me of my availability to do some consulting work. I’m willing to do that. I want to travel. I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states. I want to see the last two, Vermont and Arkansas,” Avery said. “That’s the first trips I want to make. I want to see the rest of my country and see the rest of the world after that.”

She doesn’t plan to sit at home and watch TV. She wants to get in the best physical shape of her life. Do a lot of hiking and learn some new things like yoga. And she wants to learn to cook, she added.

There’s a lot that she will miss. The warmth of the people of Port Arthur and the teamwork that makes the area successful. She’ll miss the generosity of the industrial community, which has helped Port Arthur and the entire Golden Triangle.

“I’ll miss fighting in Austin for things that are important to Port Arthur and Southeast Texas,” she said. “I’ll miss the heart of the staff we have and our wonderful board of directors. They really are doing things for their Chamber and community.”

She’ll miss working with Port Arthur City Manager Ron Burton and Mayor Thurman Bill Bartie and city council, she said.

“I’m most proud of the work done this year for the 125th birthday of the City of Port Arthur,” she said, adding event coordinators are trying to be inclusive of everyone.

The big event for the city’s birthday celebration is the Quasquicentennial Cultural Showcase set for 1 to 5 p.m. Oct 14 at the Bib Bowers Civic Center.