by Calvin Ishee, Associate Publisher
This past Wednesday a packed house of Gulf Coast mayors, state legislators, board of alderman members, notable business leaders and distinguished citizens gathered to honor, pay tribute and say farewell to the long serving Mayor of Pass Christian, Leo “Chipper” McDermott.
The Pass Christian Chamber of Commerce led by Gabrielle Rose, orchestrated a highly successful and memorable “Cheers to Chipper” event that allowed only a select few to offer comments about The Pass’s beloved Mayor.
The setting at the Pass Christian Yacht Club was a perfect, the weather was beautiful and the audience was in great anticipation to hear what Chipper had to say as he ends his reign as Pass Christian’s Mayor.
After a beautiful and touching prayer by Dorothy Roberts, owner of the Robin’s Nest, local Realtor Ken Austin began by reminding the crowd, “I learned a long time ago that you have to be careful what you say when Chipper follows you. He commended Chipper for having his hand print on every part of the City, from East to West and North to South. He added, “It was Chipper, the Board of Aldermen and Malcom Jones (City Attorney) that brought this City back, it was his vision, his encouragement and his passion. Pass Christian is so much better off because of my friend Chipper McDermott.”
Representing the Pass Christian Rotary Club, local business owner Ollie Bailey lauded the Mayor for taking the time to visit his business during the height of the Corona Virus pandemic and noted how much it meant to him personally. He commented, “I’m in awe that he came to my business personally and said, hey, here is some help.” Chipper had taken the time to personally deliver grant paperwork to Ollie so his business could survive the pandemic. He also added that “the motto of the Rotary is service above self and the Mayor epitomizes that motto”.
Alderman at Large Kenny Torgeson took the stage and commended Chipper for bringing the City back from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without Chipper, he brought Walmart back, we have one of the top five schools in the State of Mississippi and he has managed this City with common sense. We have the most balanced budget among every city on the coast. In my opinion he’s the best mayor Pass Christian has ever had.”
Distinguished Judge and Chipper’s close friend of 55 years Gaston Hewes commented, “This great City is in love with Chipper and he loves you right back.
His heart is Pass Christian. God blessed this City when he placed Chipper here after Hurricane Katrina. This town was in trouble.” He noted that “with Chipper’s boundless positive attitude, monumental energy and passion for this City, he wasn’t going to let it fail. And now we have this vibrant, unique and solvent City that we all love.” He added that Chipper “is truly a beloved man” and he thanked Chipper’s wife Jeannie for sharing him with the City of Pass Christian. He concluded by offering these last five words, “We love you very much”.
The City of Long Beach was well represented by former Mayor Billy Skellie and current Mayor George Bass. Mayor Skellie regaled the audience with stories of how Chipper helped him and the City of Long Beach after Hurricane Katrina. He stated that unlike most folks “Chipper doesn’t run from a disaster, he runs to it.” Mayor Bass commented, “Chipper has been a great asset to us and you’ve been a great friend.”
State Representative Richard Bennett and State Senator Mike Thompson presented Chipper with a Proclamation from the State of Mississippi. Bennett commented, Chipper “knows the history of The Pass. He was the right person at the right time and if you cut him, he bleeds The Pass. He’s the best Mayor The Pass has ever had and Pass Christian survived because of him. I’m going to miss you.”
With a resounding standing ovation from the audience, the featured guest and man of the hour, the one and only Mayor Leo “Chipper” McDermott commanded the stage. As with most of Chipper’s public speeches, he covered a lot of ground in a short period of time.
He commented, I’ve had “fights from Rome to the Super Dome. It’s been a long haul.” He told of his hard fought battle to keep Walmart in The Pass and gave credit to the outstanding support he received from then Governor Hailey Barbour’s wife Marsha. He also lauded former Pass Mayor Billy McDonald for being a great mentor and friend. He thanked “the five families “ that helped save The Pass by investing in the City’s economic development. He mentioned Ron Ladner, Bill Leggett, the Pucketts, the Nicaud’s and several others. He also commended and thanked Malcolm Jones for his contributions during his term of office.
He then thanked his wife Jeannie for her love and support.
As you can see from all of the aforementioned “thank you’s”, Chipper spent most of his speech focusing on the contributions of others. Several speakers noted Chipper’s humility when it came to giving credit for the Pass’s incredible recovery from Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill as well as other major challenges.
Although no one knows for certain what Chipper will do after he leaves office, one thing that is for certain is that he will continue loving and serving the City of Pass Christian.