BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The invitation-only sneak preview of the new Half Shell Oyster House at Hard Rock Casino drew a big crowd Friday night.
Noticeably missing was Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway. On Thursday, he checked himself into an alcohol treatment center in Hattiesburg, and appointed Felix Gines as acting mayor.
It was the kind of event that people have grown to expect him to attend. He has become a symbol of recovery, especially after Hurricane Katrina.
"We've thought about him all day," said city spokesman Vincent Creel. "He's in the back of our minds and in our prayers. What I've thought about is all the things he's done for this city since he's been mayor."
The 75-year-old Holloway has been mayor since 1993, and has overseen hundreds of millions of dollars in quality of life improvements.
Tina Ross Seamans, Executive Director of the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce, has known Holloway for about 12 years.
"We all wish A.J. and his family strength and bravery through this trying time," Seamans said. "He sought help that he needed, and he's a bigger man for that. He's a good man. He's a great leader for our city, and I just wish him and his family all the best."
Councilman George Lawrence also wished him a speedy recovery.
"What you've got to do is hope the best for him and that it does him some good and gets his rehab and come back and doing fine," Lawrence said. "So, you got to help him. That's the best way to do it. You've got to have the best wishes for him and his family."
Chevis Swetman, of The Peoples Bank, said he has known Holloway since they were children.
"He's done such a wonderful job, and he's all Biloxi," Swetman said. "We just wish him well and he hopefully gets better and we can have our old A.J. back."
Creel says the city is working just fine, for good reason.
"The big thing we're thinking about is what would the mayor want us to do, and we don't have to answer questions when the mayor comes back about how come you didn't do this and how come you didn't do that," said Creel.
Creel went on to say that there is no time table on Holloway's return and that, "He will be back when he's ready to be back."