Each year, the Chamber recognizes ten locals as Outstanding Citizens for stellar work in our community. Meet this year's honorees!
John’s current volunteer project is the restoration of the Hancock County Arts Center building on the corner of Blaize Avenue and Sycamore Street in Bay St. Louis. He has redesigned the building with a huge uncovered window opening which serves as an invitation that art is for everyone in the community. He is also working towards developing art programming for all ages, from children to seniors.
When John volunteers for a project, the benefit for that organization is that he brings the resources of unabridged Architecture, the architectural firm that includes his wife, Allison.
John says that his commitment to make his community better comes from the same place that drove him to become an architect. He says that architects generally have a desire to make the world around them a better place.
The work of Anderson and unabridged Architecture include additions at St. Stanislaus after Hurricane Katrina, the Bay St. Louis parking garage and the St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church renovations. A current project is the development of condominiums in the former McDonald Lumber building on the corner of Easterbrook St. and Toulme St.
unabridged Architecture received the highest national award from the American Institute of Architecture for their design work with the Marine Education Center in Ocean Springs.
When John is not making a living as an architect or volunteering in and around Bay St. Louis, he plays guitar with his band, The Electric Sheep, which performs two or three times a month at local venues including the Silver Slipper, Dan B’s and Lazy Magnolia Brewery.
John and Allison are the proud parents of three adult children, Hannah, Noah and Sarah.
Belcher worked at a sister newspaper in eastern Kentucky, Appalachian News Express. During his two years with the Appalachian News Express, he read the Sea Coast Echo religiously. He says that Bay St. Louis appeared to be a fun and caring place. From the Tide Schedule on the front page of the paper to the different festivals and benefits, he was attracted to Bay St. Louis.
When an opening for news editor became available, he applied for the position. He was flown down for an interview, and according to him, he blew them away with his knowledge of everything that was going on in Bay St. Louis. He was offered the position and has been employed with the paper ever since: 23 years. The past three years he has served as the general manager.
Geoff has witnessed a lot of changes in his years with The Echo. Of course, he helped see The Echo through the period after Hurricane Katrina, when the paper had to be produced remotely while the Court Street building was restored. He has also been on staff as the paper transitioned to online availability and permanent remote printing of the physical paper.
Geoff and his wife Sandra, have been married for thirty years, and they are the proud parents of Sarah, 13.
"There are so many ways to give back just by participating. Find something that peeks your interest and get involved.”
Ginny got involved in the marketing of Mystic Krewe of the Seahorse events. She said that what she really enjoys about this organization is that it supports organizations in the community that need help, and that they are always looking for a need in the community that may be overlooked by bigger donors.
She has served on the board of the MKOTS for three years, and she continues to do the marketing, which she absolutely enjoys. She has particularly enjoyed the expansion of marketing efforts into New Orleans and Slidell.
Ginny enjoys being on the front line when it comes to engaging people. Whether it’s with welcoming the children in Vacation Bible School or meeting other boaters out in the gulf, she makes an effort to make people feel welcomed.
In January of 2020, after a sixteen-year nursing career she turned in her notice to retire toward the middle of the year. Of course, Covid-19 became the story in early 2020, and she found herself wearing the fully-covered “rabbit suits,” testing sick patients as they were driven up to the hospital.
Cannon said that nursing was a calling. She said that, “God was right; that’s what I was made to do.”
Cannon recalled working more than twenty consecutive days on the frontline of Covid-19 testing. As a fill-in for school nurses, she also worked in the Hancock County School District as it reopened in 2020.
She has also been a CASA advocate since 2009. After initially being approached about being a CASA board member, she convinced the powers that be that she was more of a “worker bee” and became an advocate, serving as the voice for children. The advocate gets to know the parents as well as the foster parents, a role in which she is a child’s voice in court.
Cannon has been a Make-A-Wish granter, and she has served as president of the Exchange Club. She is a thirty-three-year member of Nereids, and a charter member of the Mystic Krewe of the Seahorse.
As co-owner of two restaurants, Rum Kitchen in Waveland and Pier House Orange Beach, Alabama, she has worked diligently to inspire and grow the potential of local businesses and nonprofits across Hancock County.
The Hemingway Festival, created and chaired by Starr, brought much needed attention, action, and funds to Coleman Avenue. The Fourth Fest: Hemingway In Venice, which was put on hold for COVID reasons, will take place in January of 2023.
Winning the Vote: Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote, benefited the Magdalene House a 501(c) 3, which mentors, trains and rehabilitates women who have been incarcerated. Starr was not deterred by a year’s delay of this event due to COVID and hurricanes.
Starr created the Annual St. Clare Mardi Gras Bash, which will celebrate its 5th year on January 6, 2023. Women, Wine & Wisdom is a monthly event at Rum Kitchen that is open to the public. It connects women with those who are on the front lines of the major issues facing us. She also served as the chairperson of the 100th Celebration Dinner for St. Clare Church.
Starr has a reputation for being available whenever she’s called upon, and has used her talents and resources to assist many groups with fundraising and/or leadership, including the American Red Cross, Hancock County Cancer Society, Boys and Girls Club, MAP (Math, Art & Practicality) for all Hancock children, CASA, and many local schools.
She credits a great staff and outstanding tour guides with making for high-quality first impressions. Your visit should start here is Hancock County Tourism’s slogan, which she says it is key to supporting local businesses while providing organization for available options for tourists.
A veteran of the tourism industry, Green has spent the past fifteen years promoting Hancock County, the latter eleven years as director. She says that before the hotel industry evolved with the addition of the Pearl and Silver Slipper, Hancock County found its niche in the short-term rental market.
She is deeply committed to Hancock County and demonstrates unwavering determination to keep the local tourism “boots on the ground” in place amid major political and financial challenges. She is known to maintain grace in the face of adversity.
Clarence Singleton Harris
He does everything within his power to make sure that the children of his community are involved in productive activities. He is credited with planning and leading the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration marches, and he continuously advocates for positive changes within his community and surrounding areas.
Harris currently serves as Vice President of Helping Hands Community Outreach in Waveland and as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Hancock County Human Resources Early Childhood and Youth Development Program in Bay St. Louis. Additionally, he serves as a board member for Planning and Zoning in Waveland as well as the Hancock County Library Foundation. He is an active member of the Hancock County Branch of the NAACP.
Harris has been recognized and honored with numerous awards during his fifty years of service to Hancock County. His most recent award was the 2022 Coast-wide MLK Jr. Community Activist Award, “Defining Our Legacy.” One of his most notable milestones was being an active member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where in 1983, he was joined by his late wife, Debra, and three Hancock County residents as they attended the twentieth anniversary of the March on Washington.
Mr. Harris graduated from Valena C. Jones High School in Bay St. Louis, and he furthered his education at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, MS. He is the father of four adult children: Roderick Harris, Kimberly Harris and twins, Querita and the late John Roosevelt Harris.
She has been an active member of the Mystic Krewe of the Seahorse, serving as queen in 2019. She serves on the Hancock County Tourism Board as well as 100 Women of the 100 Men Hall. She and Elise Deano started the Hancock House Floats, which resulted in more than 200 Mardi Gras decorated houses when the parades were canceled the past two years.
When there is a community need, she steps up to raise awareness, donates, and does whatever needs to be done. It was her idea to bring together a group of women, nicknamed the Healthcare Angels, who raised funds to obtain items needed for the front line when the pandemic broke out. This group of women made personal donations, secured others and delivered them personally.
Kay Kell is a commissioner with the Southern Rail Commission. One of the commission’s major projects is restoring passenger rail service to Hancock County. Kell is confident that passenger rail service will be in operation soon, with two daily trains making stops in Bay St. Louis between New Orleans and Mobile.
His broadcast career began when his son-in-law, Will Seymour, was the head baseball coach at St. Stanislaus. After six years at St. Stanislaus, he followed Seymour to Bay High when he became the baseball coach there, and brought his broadcast skills with him. He has remained the announcer for Bay High football, basketball and baseball for the past 18 seasons.
Lee has filled in as the voice for the Hancock Hawks as well, but he’s quick to point out that he only did that when Bay High played on the road, and only when Hancock’s regular announcer was unable to fulfill his commitment.
An alumnus of Bay High, Lee says that he does what he does because children deserve and need the attention. “Some don’t get any attention,” he said. “Every child deserves to hear his or her name called out.”
Lee is the proud father of four daughters, who have blessed him with seventeen grandchildren and seventeen great grandchildren.
And, Mike may get a chance to announce at sports events at the only high school in Hancock County where he has not served as sports announcer: Our Lady Academy. His daughter, Jenny Seymour, has recently been appointed principal at OLA.
Joy K. Saucier
She says that it gives her great pleasure and satisfaction to see former leadership participants receive awards and recognition for their contributions, as well as to see their professional growth.
Saucier is employed with Mississippi Power as a Community Development Representative. Her job is to help make communities stronger and better prepared for development and growth. By working to bolster the skills of young professionals and organizations, the goal is to have those individuals and organizations work across their communities to make their communities stronger.
Saucier’s focus is on leadership training, including communications skills and behavioral styles. She also volunteers facilitating strategic planning for non-profit organizations. She says that her role there is to help the organization to become more effective. She goes into those sessions and provides an objective voice to keep the process moving. Her strategic planning clients have included the Hancock County Board of Supervisors and the Hancock Health Foundation.
Saucier’s geographical area of responsibility is the southeastern quarter of the state, from Meridian west to Columbia and everything south to the Mississippi coast.
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