Pictured is Kirk Roccaforte, Business of the Year and Charlotte Schexnider Chiasson, Citizen of the Year

Photo by: Lawrence Trimm



By Dave Rogers
For The Record

Bridge City’s biggest cheerleaders shared their love for Bridge City Monday night.
“I’s just great to be in Bridge City,” former mayor Kirk Roccaforte proclaimed midway through the Taste of the Bayou and 57th Annual Banquet put on by the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve said it a million times: Bridge City is definitely the best place to live,” Roccaforte said.
Michael Hanneman, a surprised speaker, agreed.
“This community is unlike any other I’ve ever lived in. I’m privileged to be a part of it,” he said.
Scot Shaffer couldn’t have asked for a better sendoff.
“Every year they get better,” the outgoing Chamber president said of the event held at Bridge City Elementary School.
“We sold out (of seats) about four days prior to the banquet. That’s always a plus.”
The full house of 300 enjoyed tasty delights from a baker’s dozen of local restaurants and food distributors, bid in the silent auction for sports memorabilia and posed in the photo booth while the Gulf Coast Playboys Band supplied the dinner music.
Shaffer, the owner of Farmers Insurance Agency on Texas Avenue, handed over the gavel to incoming president Elyse Thibodeaux, owner of Tiger Rock Martial Arts in Bridge City.
The Chamber named Charlotte Schexnider Chiasson its Citizen of the Year and named Roccaforte’s Bridge City Radiator & Auto Repair its Business of the Year.
Chaisson, a Bridge City High School graduate who was in the first class to attend Hatton Elementary, has been active in promoting and beautifying Bridge City for nearly 50 years. She was executive vice president of the Chamber for 15 years.
Her latest project has been the writing and publishing of a local history, “The History of Prairie View-Bridge City,” the sales of which benefit The Friends of the Bridge City Public Library expansion project.
“We live in an exceptional community,” Chiasson said. “What an honor it is to be up here.”
Chiasson’s parents, Leo and Lula Mae Chiasson, raised 11 children in Bridge City and she brought five sisters and a brother to Monday’s banquet, along with her two daughters and her grandchildren.
“I accept this award on behalf of my family,” she said. “When you honor me, you honor my family.”
Chiasson also introduced Suzonne Crockett, her “fabulous boss” from Lamar State College-Orange, where she works in the education-mathematics and leisure learning division, and recalled a truism from a former Bridge City merchant.
“Tom Perry used to come to my office and talk all the time about being a small business owner,” she said. “He always said, ‘You can pay someone a salary but you can’t pay them to care.’
“I want you all to know that I care.”
The business that is now Bridge City Radiator & Auto Repair began in 1979 as a part-time business owned by Kirk and Shirley Roccaforte. After the 2015 death of Shirley Roccaforte, Kirk Roccaforte has run the business with the help of son Aaron Roccaforte and employees Tara Crone and Kyle Manuel.
“I’d like to accept this in honor of Shirley. I miss her so,” Roccaforte said upon accepting the Business of the Year award.
“I’d like to thank my employees, and my son Aaron, who came to help me out. Without Aaron, I don’t know if I could have kept it going.”
Hanneman was honored as the Ambassador of the Year. Ambassadors are Chamber members who volunteer at functions such as ribbon-cuttings and mixers and putting on the annual banquet. As the husband of Barbara Jane “B.J.” Hanneman, Chamber administrative assistant and museum curator, Michael Hanneman’s been a busy helper.
Shirley Zimmerman was awarded the Lifetime Ambassador honor.
She has chaired and co-chaired many events over the years such as the Celebrity Roast, National Night Out and the Taste of the Bayou.
“I’m very, very honored to be a part of this wonderful organization,” she said.
Beth Arnold was introduced as Ambassador Chairperson, replacing Thibodeaux. Arnold is marketing director for Wellspring Credit Union.
The 2017 Chamber board of directors includes Brandy Slaughter as vice president and Zimmerman as treasurer. Directors include Lucy Fields, Brian Hudson, Jerry Jones, Todd Lintzen, Wanda McGraw, Dianne Richoux, Kimberly Smalley, Johnny Trahan, Terri Gauthier and Roccaforte.
Kirk Ellender served as master of ceremonies and Madison Juneau sang the national anthem before the Rev. Jeremy Bradshaw offered the invocation.