“You have to be part of the community.” Chamber awardees Stuart Salter, Ron Arceneaux recognized for Port Arthur service.

Published 9:44 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Arthur E. Stilwell Award recipient Stuart Salter learned early in his career there is more to business than business.

“You have to be part of the community; it’s incumbent upon you,” Salter told the crowd Wednesday evening at the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce’s 124th Annual Banquet.

“It has to have people pulling and pushing and making things happen all the time. And I have just the personality for that sort of thing.”

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Salter was chosen as this year’s Arthur E. Stilwell Award recipient for exhibiting the vision and dedication of Stilwell, the founder of Port Arthur.

Salter’s life revolved around his hometown of Port Arthur and the business community. Growing up he saw his father and grandfather serving in the Chamber and other volunteer organizations and he served in the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Jaycees, until he aged out.

His family’s company, Julian Salter Insurance, may well have been members of the Chamber dating back to when the Chamber was founded in 1899, Port Arthur Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie said in his introduction of Salter.

Salter spent time in the U.S. Navy, came back and went to California for work. He spent six weeks there and came back to Port Arthur realizing that wasn’t the career path he wanted.

He ended up in banking, moved up the career ladder then transitioned to his family’s insurance business. He is now retired and spending time with family.

“I had a lot of opportunities to learn a great deal about how to get through life from watching, observing other Port Arthurans and do what they did,” Salter said.

“I wanted to have what they had so I did what they did. That’s really all there is to it.”

Ron Arceneaux, left, listens as Jeff Hayes presents him as the surprise recipient of the John Warne Gates Award winner. (Stephen Hemelt/The News)

Also Wednesday, a special recognition was made, by surprise, to Chamber member Ron Arceneaux as the recipient of the John Warne Gates Award winner.

Joe Tant, president/CEO of the Chamber, explained the John Warne Gates Award is presented to an individual for demonstrating outstanding leadership in their community.

Some of the key considerations for the award are spearheading local initiatives in Port Arthur and Southeast Texas, someone that, as part of their legacy, ensured small businesses are included in the projects within the area and an individual who provides valuable services to improve the quality of life for others in the community, Tant said.

The award is presented to a person for the totality of their contribution to the entire community.

Chamber member Jeff Hayes spoke of Gates’ many contributions to the city before moving into an introduction of Arceneaux.

A Port Arthur native, Arceneaux is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School who decided in the 10th grade he wanted to be an engineer. He earned a degree from Lamar University and began a career as an engineer and later opened his own firm.

“Ron’s got many talents. He’s one heck of a musician. He’s been the chair of the Transportation Committee,” Hayes said, adding Arceneaux is the best one they’ve ever had.

Arceneaux has been part of several organizations and is heavily involved with the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

The 124th Annual Banquet also recognized the 2023 outgoing chairman Randy Sonnier and incoming chairman Art Thomas as well as awarding Ambassador of the Year to Lillian Bush and Natalie Picazo.