December 07, 2021

This article, written by Allan Katz, was originally published in the Kenner Star and can be found here.

I’m a very optimistic, positive person but I’ve been struggling to find upbeat things to say about 2021 or the prospects for a better 2022.

After all, 2021 was ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 14,000 died in Louisiana with Jefferson Parish having the most deaths in the state. And more than 700,000 Americans have died of COVID, a larger number of deaths than any of our wars. Then there was Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm that left hundreds of homes in Kenner and the region with blue tarps.

So, when I find myself struggling, I turn to my friend Guy Williams, president and chief executive officer at Gulf Coast Bank and Trust. Guy always sees the glass as three-quarters full rather than a quarter empty. He and his team have made Gulf Coast a premier community bank with over $2 billion in assets, 19 branches and more than 750 employees.

His perspective on 2021 is “I am thankful for the American doctors and pharmaceutical companies that developed the vaccines and, more recently, the pills in record time that gave us hope the COVID scourge can be contained and, in time, ended. My family and I have had the three shots and if they recommend a fourth booster next year, we’ll be there to get it. I don’t think this scientific miracle could have been accomplished anywhere but in America.”

Some further Williams thoughts on 2021 are “After Hurricane Katrina, the federal government invested billions of dollars in a hurricane protection system. Hurricane Ida was a Category 4 storm that could have been as devastating as Katrina. But we can all be thankful that the levees held. I know there were damages and post-storm housing problems in some parishes, but the levees were not breached. We didn’t have thousands of deaths, thank God. We didn’t have disastrous flooding or helicopter rescues of desperate folks from rooftops. The money invested in a storm protection system was well-spent.”

And a final Williams observation about 2021 and the hopes for 2022 is “I don’t take political sides but I am thrilled about the passage and presidential signing of the bi-partisan Infrastructure Bill. I was delighted to see U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a Republican, take a leading role in the framing of the bill. He also voted for it. This legislation means tens of millions of dollars for Louisiana to fix our roads, bridges and ports. We desperately need this. I am also delighted to see President Biden name former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat, to administer this legislation. As it happens, Mitch is a friend of mine. He is a very capable guy who surrounds himself with smart people. I think he will do a great job and make sure Louisiana gets every dime’s worth of benefits we deserve. I am especially pleased to see the legislation includes $53 million for the improvement of Lake Pontchartrain, which I think is one of our most under-utilized assets in South Louisiana. This is very good news for Kenner that has long wanted to develop its under-utilized lakefront acreage.”

As I said, Guy Williams is a very smart guy, as readers of his column in the Kenner Star already know.

I also want to tip my hat to the folks at the Treasure Chest Casino. For the 12th consecutive year, they are hosting a contest to benefit 14 non-profit agencies. These agencies are institutions that help the neediest in times of crisis, of which we had plenty in 2021. Each agency prepares a Christmas wreath, all of which are displayed near the casino entrance. Casino patrons vote on the wreath they like the most. Treasure Chest gives cash awards to all the agencies, in the order that they finish in the competition. Very good for Treasure Chest Casino Marketing Director Rodney Miller and his staff.
Speaking of which, it would be nice if Kenner families in the spirit of the holidays would give a gift, large or small, to the non-profit agency of their choice. My personal favorites include the Jefferson Council on Aging and the Kenner Food Bank, but there are many other non-profits equally worthy. I especially like the Council on Aging and the Food Bank because they feed folks who might otherwise go hungry. It is also a great way to teach children the importance of giving back to the community that cares for those in need. And, in conclusion, I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a “Happy New Year.”

Allan Katz can be reached at allankatz100@gmail.com.