Roccaforte leads Bridge City in renewal since Ike
Nearing the 42 anniversary of the city of Bridge City on July 7, Mayor Kirk Roccaforte reflects on the 29 years he has been involved in local government. Roccaforte, Bridge City’s seventh and longest serving mayor, in a fourth term, was elected to the city council in 1994 and mayor in 2006.
His interest in public office, however, began over a decade earlier as a business owner wanting to become more involved in city government. The rest, as they say, is history.
So, as Bridge City turns another year older, what does Kirk Roccaforte say is the best part of being it’s mayor?
“It’s the people here,” Roccaforte says, “Bridge City people is why I am proud to be their mayor.”
Roccaforte recalled the response of citizens in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, 2008. “I don’t think there is a better city than Bridge City. There is nowhere I would rather be.”
According to Roccaforte, the city has tapped into nearly $20 million in disaster recovery funds repairing infrastructure and repaving streets. Roccaforte pointed out that the vast improvements would not have been possible just on the city budget. “Bridge City is going through a renewal from the disaster. We still have folks out there who are in need and we’re trying to help them.”
Roccaforte says one of the biggest challenges for the city council and city manager is working with the city budget. “It is a tight budget and we’re not a wealthy city. We have basically the same number of employees as Bridge City did not long after it was incorporated and our revenue base is about the same.”
There are currently 56 city employees providing essential services for the city. Roccaforte said there is little room for increasing the number of city employees in the budget.
The mayor foresees that future growth will come from attracting younger families to the city. “Our school district is one of the best in the state and is a great draw for the city. In turn, we need to provide support for our schools by making Bridge City an attractive place to live.”
The city’s recent clearing of the waterfront property adjoining the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge brought back memories for Roccaforte. “The city and drainage district did a good job on the land. It looks like it did many years ago out there.”
The property was once the site of the famed Joe Bailey Fish Camp on Cow Bayou established in the Prairie View era. Famous for good times, the establishment flourished in the days when operation of the swing bridge was a routine part of life in early Bridge City. A fire destroyed the dance hall in the early 1970’s but the town had grown-up with public access to the waterfront until safety concerns made it prohibitive. The City of Bridge City is currently looking at the property as a future waterfront park.
The land is owned by Orange County Development. Ms. Gisela Houseman and her staff, along with several organizations including the Orange County EDC and other interested parties are working out the cost estimates for the project and funding. Ms. Houseman has offered to make a substantial contribution to the project. Once the cost estimates are in place a capitol campaign will be launched to help raise money for the park.
“I think it will happen,” Roccaforte says. “It would be good for Bridge City if it does.”
Bridge City’s first mayor was Preston “Red” Wood in 1970. Gordon Harvey became mayor in 1977. John Banken was elected as Bridge City’s third mayor in 1983. Don Peters became mayor in 1992, John Dubose in 1995 and Bobbie Burgess, Bridge City’s first woman mayor in 2000.