2005 inaugural: Our challenge is to capitalize on success

Here is the prepared text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s inaugural address delivered Tuesday, June 28, 2005, during a Saenger Theatre ceremony in which Holloway and members of the City Council took their oaths of office. The occasion marked Holloway’s fourth inaugural address.

Honorable councilmembers, distinguished guests, Biloxians:

Thank you for being here today.

To the members of the City Council, I congratulate you on reaching this milestone.

As we begin a new term of office, I know that you share my anticipation, my enthusiasm and my optimism regarding the exciting times and challenges we face.

All of us gathered here today – the public servants as well as the public we serve – have the unique and unprecedented fortune of being a part of an era that future generations will recognize as the time when our city reached new plateaus.

When we worked to make Biloxi the best city it could be. When we provided our residents with the superior quality of life they expect and deserve.

When opportunities and prosperity were within reach of all of our residents. And a time when we seized the opportunities that we had before us.

You’ve heard several references to history today, and the historic milestone at which we find ourselves is one of the reasons that Macklyn and I chose the Saenger Theatre as the setting for this inauguration ceremony.

The story of this glorious theater is another example of the re-birth of our beloved city.

Since the Saenger first opened its doors in 1929, this theater, like the city it serves, has seen its share of exciting and prosperous times.

And through the years, this showplace has also seen its share of storms – some natural and some man-made.

But today, after years of planning, dedication, public and private investment, and hard work, we can see that this theater is enjoying a renaissance.

It is once again a magnificent showplace befitting our city.

The same can be said of our city itself.

Since the explorer D’Iberville first set foot on our shores in 1699 to establish the Biloxi settlement, this community has seen its share of turbulent times – some natural and some man-made.

We recall the glory days, when we were referred to as the Seafood Capital of the World. We recall the many hurricanes that have devastated our shoreline.

We recall the not-so-distant past when our local economy, much like the rest of the nation, was sputtering.

Twelve years ago, when you first elected me as your mayor, I spoke to that first inaugural audience about hope of greater things for our city.

I spoke of a city that stood at a crossroads. The gaming industry was in its infancy.

We had only just begun the task of straightening out our city finances. Our streets and drainage were in a sad state.

I spoke of a city that had a colorful past, but one that faced fearsome challenges.

Today, I repeat what I said at that inaugural in 1993. The challenges may have been fearsome, but so are our strengths.

Of course, on that day, neither I nor anyone else in Biloxi could have predicted the massive growth and prosperity that we would witness in the ensuing years.

We invested years of planning, dedication, public and private investment and hard work in our efforts to return our city to its position of promise.

You have witnessed the construction of new schools, new and improved libraries, new public safety facilities, new recreational facilities and parks, new roads, and, yes, new opportunities.

Today, our economy is vibrant. We have improved our quality of life, and we enhanced the opportunities for ALL citizens of Biloxi.

I am proud of the many accomplishments that we have witnessed in our city.

At the same time, I also realize that we have much work to be done if we are to keep this city on the right track, and to continue to protect and preserve the excellent quality of life that we have come to expect in Biloxi.

For all of the unprecedented growth and prosperity that we have been a part of in the past decade, some may harbor worry about growth we’re continuing to experience.

In fact, “change” has been another word that you have heard repeatedly in recent weeks. In some cities, the change referred to the new faces you see in elected positions. I’m certainly grateful such is not the case for the Mayor of Biloxi!

You hear the word “change” these days in regard to our changing landscape, particularly in terms of condominiums, casinos and in the tourism industry in general.

Make no mistake: Change has been a part of Biloxi since that day 306 years ago when D’Iberville set foot on our shores.

Our challenge as elected officials today is to continue to ensure that we have the proper safeguards in place to protect the things that make Biloxi the city we so dearly love.

To protect and improve your quality of life.

To provide you quality schools, safe neighborhoods, a clean city, and excellent recreational opportunities and facilities.

That we preserve our sense of place and that we cherish and promote our rich and colorful history and our diversity.

Those are indeed lofty challenges, considering the increasing popularity of our community – in terms of new and returning visitors, and a continuing influx of new residents.

The change that we are experiencing in Biloxi – the change which we will continue to experience – is best described as an evolution.

We are evolving into a recognized destination, but we are also working to retain our small-town charm.

We are indeed poised to meet this promising future, and together we are ready to embrace the challenges before us.

I’m sure that many of you who were born and raised in Biloxi have fond memories of the Biloxi of yesteryear.

When everyone knew everyone else, and when it took 10 minutes to drive from Point Cadet to Edgewater Mall.

Or when Howard Avenue was Howard Avenue, and it was not uncommon to see potholes on our streets filled with oyster shells instead of asphalt.

People tend to romanticize history. You’ll hear people talk of the “good ol’ days.” We DID have “good ol’ days,” and now we find ourselves in good NEW days.

The message today is that we must continue to do the things that we’ve been doing.

The right things – thoughtful planning, responsible management of our assets, and that we remain grounded by our history and guided by a desire to appreciate and retain those qualities that make Biloxi such a special place.

In closing, let me say this: As a city, we have shown time and again that we have the ability to overcome adversity. Our challenge now is to show that we can also capitalize on success.

As I’ve said on more than one occasion, I believe that future generations will look back upon this period as a time when Biloxi began its renaissance.

When we made the right decisions. We not only cherished our history, but we MADE history.

God bless all of you, God bless Biloxi and God bless America.