NEWSMAKERS OF THE YEAR: Press Club honors Orange County leaders for efforts in Hurricane Ike recovery

The SE Texas Record Jun. 9, 2009, 10:52am

Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux was part of a team of city leaders recognized as Newsmaker of the Year for their efforts in Bridge City following Hurricane Ike.

Jefferson County District Court Judge Bob Wortham was nominated as a Newsmaker of the Year finalist by the Press Club of Southeast Texas for his work helping the Bolivar Peninsula following Hurricane Ike.

Members of the local media await the announcement of the Newsmaker of the Year at the Press Club of Southeast Texas annual banquet on June 5.

The Press Club of Southeast Texas honored Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux and two community leaders as Newsmakers of the Year for their efforts during Hurricane Ike recovery in Bridge City and other Orange County communities.

Almost 300 people were gathered in the Lamar University Reception Center on June 5 to salute Thibodeaux, Bridge City School Superintendant Jamey Harrison and Bridge City Mayor Kurt Roccoforte, who were chosen as a group as Newsmaker of the Year.

Also honored as Finalists were internationally renowned photographer-educator Keith Carter; Beaumont Fire Chief Anne Huff; the team of Joe Worley and David Deslatte, organizers of "Mid-County Kindness"; and Jefferson County 58th District Court Judge Bob Wortham, a leader in hurricane response on the Bolivar Peninsula.

Press Club members select the finalists and the top recipients of the Newsmaker of the Year award, honoring the Southeast Texans who had the most significant positive impact on issues and events during the year 2008.

The Press Club also presented Excellence in the Media Awards for achievements by print and broadcast journalists and public relations professionals. Now in its 18th year, the banquet is the major annual fundraiser for the Press Club Memorial Scholarship, awarded to Lamar communication students.

The top Newsmakers � Harrison, Roccaforte and Thibodeaux � knew they would have to work together to overcome devastating flood damage to Bridge City that dwarfed even the damage from Hurricane Rita just three years earlier.

While storm surge waters poured into the city, more than 250 people had to be rescued. In the aftermath, only 14 houses of the 3,500 in the city had not been inundated with flood water.

As Orange County Judge, Thibodeaux knew he had to help Bridge City recover, even though a third of Orange was flooded, and Vidor and Pinehurst had significant damage too. Many county buildings were also flooded, including the county courthouse.

Virtually overnight, Thibodeaux helped oversee the transformation of an empty parking lot on Highway 90 in Orange into a mobile command center filled with volunteers from around the county, numerous tanker trucks carrying thousands of gallons of gasoline and three tents holding 1,060 cots, several portable showers and laundry units and more than 200 portable toilets.

As mayor, Roccoforte is credited with taking swift action to get his residents into temporary housing and persevering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Harrison was faced with only Bridge City High School as the only school in the district that was not flooded. He managed to resume classes within a month and got students through a full school year.

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