By: Patrick Sims, Alicia Chatelain, and Brandon Phares
On Tuesday, October 15, 2019, our new-found friends and future “leaders” gathered once again to explore and discover a few of the great commodities our parish has to offer.
We began our day at The Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce, where President and CEO, Melissa Bordelon educated the class on the Chamber’s mission and its significance to promote economic vitality for our parish and community. Ms. Bordelon’s energetic and lively presentation was informative and educational to those who may not have fully been aware of the enormous part this Chamber is playing in our Parish’s success.
“Moving along,” as our great leader Mr. Nick Gagliano would say, we loaded our trusty buses and headed a few blocks away to Hammond City Hall to hear from some of the hard-working “leaders” of the great City of Hammond. Due to an unfortunate scheduling conflict, the Honorable Mayor Panepinto was unable to meet with us; however, we were not disappointed, as Lacy Landrum, Director of Administration and City Council President Carlee Gonzales led the session with a quick overview of City Hall and the City Council. We also had the privilege to hear from several key players of various city departments. Not only was this portion of our session enjoyable, but very informative and sometimes, unbelievable! WOW, it is amazing what goes on behind the scene to make Hammond such a great community!
The third stop of the day brought us to the Hammond Regional Airport; the #1 general aviation airport in the state. The airport got its start in 1932 as a military aviation training field for fighter pilots, many of whom went on to fly in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters in WWII. The field was later turned over to the parish, who in turn gave it to the City of Hammond. The airport recently finished construction on the new air traffic control tower facility in 2014, increasing the monthly movements from 4,000 to 10,000! That increase in airport traffic has turned the airport from a drain on city resources ($100-150k a year) to a profit generating machine in less than 4 years ($100k profit). The airport serves general, commercial, and military aviation.
One of the airport’s residents is the Louisiana Army National Guard, Army Aviation Support Facility. We were given a tour of the facility from Col. Jacques Comeaux. In what was initially a temporary move after Hurricane Katrina damaged their Headquarters Facilities in New Orleans, the guardsmen requested that their displacement to Hammond become permanent. There are anywhere between 50-100 guardsmen at the facility on a daily basis. When ‘one weekend a month/two weeks a year training’ comes around, that number swells to 600+. Ready to engage for state incidents and overseas deployments, the AASF has 20 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters stationed at the airport. The training center is home to one of only seven US-based Black Hawk Aircrew Trainers, drawing pilots from across the Southeastern United States to Hammond for training.
Our fourth stop leads us to Mayor of Ponchatoula Bob Zabbia and his Executive Assistant Rhonda Sheridan. They were gracious enough to provide a delicious lunch for the group with plenty of snacks. Mayor Zabbia discussed many topics about Ponchatoula, including city water and sewage to new infrastructure and funding. Some things to looks forward to are new LED lighting near the Highway 22/51 area, additional sidewalks, and more concentration on fire service, just to name a few. The Mayor also reports that the city is completely debt free, making the city of Ponchatoula a great places to live.
On our fifth and final destination of the day, we were introduced to U.S Customs and Border Protection Director, Francisco J. Rodriquez, also known as “Chichi”. His staff gave our group a tour of the facility and some of the amazing aircrafts used for surveillance. The federal agency is located in Hammond and is responsible for border protection and investigations in the Gulf of Mexico, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.
As residents of this great parish, active civic leaders, and members of the dynamic group we call, Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2020, we would like to say thank you to the “leaders” of Tangipahoa for your support, guidance and mentorship as we work to refine ourselves to assist in the betterment of our parish!
Patrick Sims BS, RN, NREMT-P
Paramedic Field Supervisor
Acadian Ambulance Service Inc.
Patrick is a Supervisor for Acadian Ambulance North Shore ground division and has been employed with the company for 12 years. He also owns a local Lawn Contracting company and sits on the District 1 ‘911’ board as Vice Chairman. Patrick resides in Hammond with his wife, Melissa, and their 3 children.
Alicia L. Chatelain
Human Resources/Public Relations Director
Hood Memorial Hospital
Alicia Chatelain is Hood Memorial Hospital’s Director of Human Resources and Public Relations where she is responsible for managing the Hospital’s employee relations and reputation by gaining understanding and support of employees, patients, their families and the community. While Alicia recognizes that she is certainly not a native to Tangipahoa, she is very much dedicated to serving the community that she now calls home.
Brandon J Phares
Chief Operations Officer
Sherman’s Glass Inc
Brandon has served as the COO of Sherman’s Glass since 2016. He is a Marine Corps Veteran and Lifetime Alum of SLU. He and his family have been serving the glass needs of South Tangipahoa residents for over 50 years. He and his spouse moved to Hammond after the August 2016 flood and they continue to work to make Tangipahoa a better place for all.