There was a changing of the guard on Monday night for the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber hosted the Taste of the Bayou 55th Annual Banquet at the Bridge City Elementary School on January 12. The 2014 Citizen of the Year, the 2014 Business of the Year, the 2014 Ambassador of the Year were presented as well as the introduction of the 2015 chamber president. The outgoing president, Lucy Fields, and ambassador chair, Scot Shaffer, also made some parting remarks.

S. “Mark” Messer, DDS, of Advanced Dentistry, was named as 2014 Citizen of the Year.

Messer, son of Shannon and Thelma Loreen Messer, graduated from Silsbee High School in 1965. In December of 1967 he married Rebecca Flag and they have three children: Marcy Messer Hudson, Marion Messer and Jeremy Messer and one grandson, Kaden Messer.

Dr. Messer was a corpsman in the Navy. He completed aviation medical school finishing his naval career in 1969.

He attended the University of Maryland, Lamar University and Baylor College of Dentistry, graduating in 1975 with his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in only five and-a-half years.

In 1975, Messer and his family came to Bridge City to start his practice.

His father, (who received the citizen of the year award in 1988) owned Shannon Messer Real Estate in Bridge City which also officed the original Bridge City Chamber of Commerce. That office was expanded to include Dr. Messer’s original dental office.

He purchased his current location in 1980. This year, Messer will celebrate 40 years of practicing in Bridge City.

Dr. Messer has served as a delegate to the TX Dental Society, Bridge City Chamber and Rotary Club presidents as well as numerous other positions. He has participated in Smiles on Wheels, Dentistry from the Heart- providing free dentistry to anyone needing it and the Cash for Candy program buying children’s Halloween candy for $1 per pound and sent it to troops in Afghanistan who gave the candy to local children in exchange for information.

He is a member of the Bridge City Pentecostal Church and enjoys spending time with his family, attending seminars and traveling in his spare time.

Messer said during his acceptance speech his wife Rebecca was from Groves. He asked Dr. Michael Olson if he could use some help in his practice. They’ve been in Bridge City ever since.

“It’s been a great life,” Messer said. “Brdige City has been the best place to raise a family and now my grandsons are growing up here. Bridge City has done a lot more for me than I’ve done for Bridge City.”

State Farm- Bill Nickum Agency was named as the 2014 Business of the Year.

Bill and Ellen Nickum came to Bridge City in August 1965 as newlyweds.

Ellen accepted a teaching position with BCISD and is presently employed by the district. Nickum received his BBA in Marketing in 1968 from Lamar State College of Technology.

He began his career with State Farm Insurance in 1969 as a claims adjuster in Beaumont. He wanted to pursue an agency and was appointed an agent on March 1, 1973. Bill and Ellen chose Bridge City to establish the business because of the people and a great place to live and rear their family.

Nickum began as a new market agent meaning he did not have policy holders, even any of his own.

His office was a card table in the corner of the bedroom. He was a door-to-door salesman, building his business one policy at a time. He built his present office on Texas Avenue in 1984. He said he has been blessed through the years with a very successful agency.

Nickum has won numerous awards with State Farm. He is top agent and leader in the area district for 40-plus years. He has maintained a very dedicated and loyal staff through the years which is the success of any business.

He remains very active in community activities and organizations as he has for many years.

Past president of Bridge City Chamber, charter member and past president of Rotary International, 15 year board member and executive board member of Texas Workforce Solutions, and a deacon of Second Baptist Church.

Nickum said his office staff has more than 90 years of experience collectively.

He added it’s been a tough 10 years with two hurricanes hitting Bridge City, but God gives everyone opportunities in life.

“They either make you or break you. Be victorious in everything you do,” he said.

Fields, the 2014 chamber president, said there’s been some ups and downs for the chamber during the year such as the computer crashing the losing an administrative assistant. Those challenges have since been fixed.

The chamber started the year with $51,000 in the coffers and ended the year with $61,000.

They also received a $10,000 grant from the Hotel Occupancy Tax committee to refurbish the floors and windows of the Teacherage Museum at the chamber. The also received a $250 grant so they could purchase a laptop from Walmart to backup the main computer.

Later in the year, they received an additional HOT grant for $5,000 to add historical items to the museum.

The museum has also had some out of state visitors.

The chamber added 31 new members over the year. They added a feature to their website in which each member can see which type of business fellow members have.

The chamber has 4,603 followers on FaceBook.

The chamber participates in and encourages residents to Shop Orange County to keep money in the county. Likewise, there has been a 17.2 percent increase sales tax revenue.

“What stays local grows local,” Fields said.

She said there have been coffee socials to promote and grow local businesses.

“I’m a transplant to Bridge City 17 years ago. My love for Bridge City has no bounds,” Fields said.

Shaffer, chairman of the ambassadors, turned over that office to Elyse Thibodeaux.

Shaffer said the chamber couldn’t work without their ambassadors.

“They help the chamber to move forward by coming up with the ideas and doing it. They work extremely hard,” he said.

Thibodeaux said she wants to forward businesses and meet people. She added she got to know half the people in attendance at the banquet through the chamber.

Shaffer, meanwhile, gave up his post as chair of the ambassadors to become president of 2015 Bridge City Chamber of Commerce.