Comments at retirement party for Brenda Johnston and David Staehling

Here are comments made by Mayor A.J. Holloway during a retirement party to honor Director of Administration David Staehling and Municipal Clerk Brenda H. Johnston, at the Biloxi Visitors Center, on Dec. 5, 2012.

Thank all of you for being here. This is a way to say thank you to Brenda and David for the great job that they have done at City Hall.

I appreciate the hard work and the dedication that they have shown over the years of service.

As much as I enjoy being mayor, I know that it takes people to follow up on things.

In football, I was a running back. As mayor, I am more of a quarterback, and Brenda and David have been MVPs for me and for this city.

On my first day in office, I took Brenda around City Hall and I told each person that if Brenda calls and tells them to do something, it was like me calling.

On my second day, I took David around City Hall, and I told each person that if David calls you, call me and let me know what he says.

Seriously, David and Brenda have been with me a long time. I was best man at Brenda and Billy’s wedding. Macklyn and I were at Ole Miss with Brenda and Billy. I spent a lot of time at Billy and Brenda’s apartment when I was supposed to be studying.

Brenda has looked out for me – and for this city — for a bunch of years. As municipal clerk, she made sure we dotted our eyes and crossed our tees.

David and I worked together at Bankers Trust, and I eventually sold Mary’s Drive Inn to him and his family.

That first day, David asked the cook how many pounds of red beans I had them cook each Friday, and they said they didn’t know how many pounds. I made them count each of the beans.

As director of administration, David oversees a typical budget of 50 to 60 million dollars a year. Since Katrina, he’s oversaw that budget each year, plus a 500 million dollar FEMA budget. So every day, he had to deal with me and FEMA.

I’m not gonna stand up here and make a long speech, but I want to say thank you to David and Brenda.

I want the people of Biloxi to know that David Staehling and Brenda Johnson have served this city well.

And now they are Karen and Billy’s problem.

God bless y’all and God bless Biloxi.

Comments by David Staehling

Here are comments made by Director of Administration David Staehling during a retirement party to honor him and Municipal Clerk Brenda H. Johnston, at the Biloxi Visitors Center, on Dec. 5, 2012.

Brenda asked me to speak for both of us.

The good thing is that these comments do not have to be approved or ratified by the City Council, and there will be no question-and-answer session afterward.

First off, Brenda and I want to thank Billy and Karen, and our family and friends for being here this evening.

She and I have worked either for or with Mayor Holloway for more than 40 years, the last 20, of course, at City Hall.
Brenda and I have had a unique relationship with A.J.
We were friends and we worked together. We’ve always gotten along. We never had any bitter disagreements.

We all understood our expectations of each other. Well, we understood HIS expectations.

Like all of you, in the past 20 years, we have seen the best and worst.

We look back at that period from the early ’90s to 2005 as the most prosperous time in the history of our city. More than 6 billion dollars in development, 15,000 jobs, progress in all sectors of our economy and quality of life.

That economic engine along our waterfront was sparking a renaissance across our city.

Then, overnight, that all changed. We lost half of the growth and development. The best times in our history smashed head on into the worst natural disaster in our country’s history.

Katrina struck at a time when Biloxi had more to lose than at another time in our history.

Looking back on the past seven years, I honestly believe that we made all the right decisions. We either replaced or repaired the destroyed and damaged properties. We placed a strong emphasis on tourism, cultural enhancement, recreation and quality of life.

You can see it all around you. Just look at this Visitors Center, and in the next several months you’ll see the Lighthouse Park, which is going to stretch all the way from Gill Avenue to Benachi. You see it in the library and civic center, the Old Brick House, the Magnolia Hotel, the marinas, the harbors, the piers, the boat ramps at places like the Popp’s Ferry Causeway Park. You’re going to see it in the seafood museum and the waterfront park at Point Cadet. And the Point Cadet fishing bridge.

With all of this work, and with the infrastructure work we’re doing, we’re laying a solid foundation. We are setting the table for re-investment and economic growth. When this national economy turns around, and the financial markets rebound, we’re going to see unprecedented growth.

Brenda and I have been privileged to be a part of all of this. For that we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mayor Holloway. He allowed us to have a seat at the table, to help make things happen.

But, frankly, nothing would have been possible without the support and cooperation of the people of Biloxi.

Everything that we have been through has shown us how special the people of Biloxi are. How we work hard, how we like to have a good time, how we care about each other, and how we value the things that are important – our families, our friends, and our faith. These are the things that have sustained us generation after generation, and these are the things that will guide us into the future.

So, on behalf of Brenda and myself, I’m here to say thank you, God bless you, and we are now looking forward to enjoying this next chapter of our life.