Inauguration 2009: The journey begins anew

Here is the prepared text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s inaugural address delivered on July 1, 2009, during the inauguration ceremony conducted at Biloxi Junior High School auditorium.

My fellow Biloxians, friends and family, distinguished guests, members of the City Council, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you for that kind reception.

Today marks my fifth inaugural address.

Four years ago, when I delivered my fourth such address, I talked about the great future of our city, and how promise was at our doorstep,

A month later, Hurricane Katrina struck. There was far more than promise at our doorstep. In fact, 6,000 of us in Biloxi didn’t even have a doorstep.

Sixteen years ago, when you first elected me as your mayor, I said: “Biloxi lives in my heart and soul, and for her I hold only the deepest regard and respect.”

We talked of rebuilding our finances. We talked of restoring integrity to City Hall and to your city government in general. We talked of the promise of the new casino industry.

We’ve come a long way in the past 16 years, and yet today we’re still talking about some of the same things – rebuilding, restoring and great promise.

As I’ve said time and again since Katrina, I could not be more proud of the way that the people of Biloxi have dealt with this storm, the way you persevered, with such dignity, such determination, such grace and such hard work.

I thank all of you for the historic opportunity that you have presented me, electing me to serve a fifth term as your mayor.

I am humbled by your trust and support, but I am not overwhelmed by the challenges we face.

With the grace of God, with the support of my friends and family, I am up to the challenge. And this city, just as it has been for more than 300 years, is up to the challenge.

There’s an old saying “The journey is the reward.” And today, we begin that journey anew.

My goal in the next four years is to see this city re-claim its rightful place as a leader. A leader in tourism. A leader in preservation of history and culture. A leader in quality of life. A leader period.

Since Aug. 29, we’ve worked hard toward reviving our renaissance, the unprecedented growth and opportunity that we were enjoying in the years before the storm.

It’s taken months and months of securing funding, getting approvals for plans, doing the design work and finally arriving at the point of actual construction.

This summer, you’ll see construction underway on three major projects, the new Visitors Center north of the lighthouse, and the new library and civic center on Howard Avenue.

You’ll see work on such historic properties as the Biloxi Lighthouse, the Old Brick House, the Magnolia Hotel, City Hall and the fire museum.

By the end of the year, you’ll see the first of the work on our massive streets and drainage projects.

And progress will continue on our museum district in east Biloxi.

Just as we were before the storm and in the weeks and months since that fateful day, we will be guided by our past — and the things that were RIGHT about Biloxi.

As I said to you back in 1993, “I have no doubt that the long-term success of our new opportunities is dependent on our ability to preserve the wonderful heritage of our past.

“It is time to put Biloxi first, for the Biloxi of the future must remain as diverse and as unique as the Biloxi we have always known.

“Only then will Biloxi be first in the minds of potential visitors to our city as well as to our citizens for many years to come.”

We all know the things that make us the unique community that we are:

— Our rich history and our culture. Our traditions – old and new – whether it’s our family-oriented Mardi Gras, the Blessing of the Fleet, the Race for the Case or Cruisin’ the Coast.

— We are a community that has enjoyed a bond with the water, whether it was through the seafood industry, deep sea fishing, or just a family outing on the river or at the islands.

— There’s our small-town charm and our low cost of living and our high quality of life.

— Thousands of retirees from Keesler Air Force Base fell so much in love with our city that they decided to make it their permanent home.

For me, it always comes back to the people. Our colorful people. Our diverse ethnic backgrounds. The hard-working and God-fearing immigrants who through the generations molded this city into what it was and what it is – a place we love and a place we love to call home.

We come from different backgrounds. We go to different churches. We live in different neighborhoods. But we all have one thing in common – we love Biloxi.

And finally, on this idea of resolve and resilience, on this challenge of rebuilding and restoring our city, and on the promise of our future, I leave you with a quote that I memorized in my college or high school days, I can’t remember which, but it stayed with me and I have tried to live by it.

It’s from President Theodore Roosevelt, and it’s something that has stood the test of time.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.”

My fellow Biloxians, we are all in the arena, and we will leave a great legacy of victory for our children and our children’s children.

God bless all of you and God bless Biloxi.