McDermott To Lead Pass Christian Through Recovery - - The News for South Mississippi

McDermott To Lead Pass Christian Through Recovery

Drive around Pass Christian with newly elected Mayor Chipper McDermott and you get a guided tour of a town pummeled by Hurricane Katrina.

Every time he passed a water logged oak tree, or a property flattened by the storm, the lifelong Pass Christian resident had a story to tell. He pointed out the Scenic Drive property where his family rode out Hurricane Camille. And then he looked across the street.

"Right up in here is one of the saddest parts of all," he said.

McDermott was pointing toward the Union Quarters property. The historic home made it through Camille. But it was no match for Katrina. Seeing the crushed remnants of Union Quarters made the new mayor realize Katrina "took us from the 21st century to the 18th century in six hours."

It's now up to the administrative skills of the 56-year-old to steer Pass Christian back to the 21st Century.

"That's going to be a daunting experience," he said.

Outside the mayor's car were scenes of devastation that looked as fresh Wednesday as they did on August 29th. McDermott said Katrina "took a lot of history and a lot of stuff that had been here for 300 years and put it right out in the Gulf of Mexico."

Katrina hit Pass Christian hard. The city lost most of its downtown buildings, a good chunk of its tax base, and about half its population. The people who stayed are trusting McDermott to put the Pass back together.

"If we can get them all on the same page, we can come back," McDermott said. "My first job is to get acclimated like we've been doing. Get everybody in Pass Christian together. And if we can get them all together on the same page, I don't think anything can stop us really."

McDermott ran a mayoral campaign that reminded voters "he gets things done" -- much like his grandfather did when he was mayor of the tiny town in west Harrison County. The charm of Pass Christian's past will be McDermott's model for his city's future.

"Hurricane or no hurricane, we're still nature's gift to the gulf coast," he said.

Pass Christian had a vacancy at city hall because it's former mayor Billy McDonald resigned. The city now has a vacancy on its board of aldermen. The new mayor Chipper McDermott is Pass Christian's alderman-at-large. An election to fill that seat hasn't been set yet.

by Brad Kessie

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