I met many people — restaurant owners, park rangers, shopkeepers, tourism representatives, tour guides, to name a few — who obviously love their work and are passionate about continuing the upward momentum in Waveland and Bay St. Louis following the double disastrous blows of Katrina in 2005 and the BP oil spill in 2010. To accomplish what they have so far, they have had to possess tremendous dedication, loyalty and commitment to the task. Today I want to introduce you to three of these impressive people.
Mike Smith was recently elected to his second term as mayor of Waveland, Mississippi. Previous to running for office, he was the city’s Fire Chief. During the worst of Katrina, he was the Assistant Fire Chief. That meant that during the hours the storm was raging, he was busy helping and rescuing others while his own property was washed away.
When you visit the Ground Zero Museum in Waveland, be sure to notice a series of photos that Mayor Mike took showing many beautiful houses only 24 hours before they were destroyed. He knew the storm was headed their way and wanted to be able to document the effects as well as to preserve the memories of what once was. Until the hurricane made landfall, the exact location continued to change. But, as it turned out, Waveland was the bullseye.
Mayor Mike faces many challenges — for instance, 20% of Waveland’s population left and hasn’t returned — but is working tirelessly to lure businesses back and to lead efforts to build new structures even better than ever before. The soon-to-be dedicated lighthouse at the new beach area is particularly appealing and will attract thousands for play and recreation.
ERICA LARKIN GAUDET
Larkin Gaudet is a renowned and accomplished sculptor. She and her husband Mitchell own, manage and display some of their works alongside those of other artists at Studio Waveland and Gallery near Waveland’s new City Hall. As a result, they are also helping area artists and attracting more from surrounding areas. The gallery serves as a gathering place for upscale events and also as a workshop and teaching center for those wanting to learn new skills.
Larkin and Mitchell are attractive, talented, charismatic and great ambassadors for the town of Waveland. Check out these websites to learn more: Studio Waveland and Gallery and EricaLarkinGaudet.com.
NIKKI NICHOLSON MOON
On the day I met Nikki, she was walking in a boot cast because of a broken foot, but that didn’t appear to deter her in the least. Nikki has certainly withstood much worse.
After a successful career “selling New Orleans” for over 24 years, Nikki bought a large house and inn in a prominent location across from the harbor in Bay St. Louis in February of 2003, when she was 50 years old. The house was built in 1897, so she (mistakenly) thought it could withstand Katrina and chose to stay and ride out the storm. Katrina proved to be far more than anyone anticipated. She narrowly escaped as her house collapsed and the water swept through. With her dog in her arms, she swam and grabbed for anything she could find and miraculously found a tree where she hung on for dear life for hours. Two other people found that same tree, and thankfully the dog was smart enough to hold onto his owner as well.
After many struggles and agonizing decisions, she was finally able to break ground on her brand new home and 12-room inn in October of 2012. Two months later, her husband of two years was diagnosed with melanoma, and six months later, he died. She persevered and has a lovely home and thriving inn as her reward. Nikki said that the hardest thing to overcome was the fact that she has nobody but herself to blame for mistakes but also only herself to make the decisions. She chooses to keep moving forward. I am inspired by her story and can highly recommend her inn — Bay Town Inn Bed and Breakfast.
Who have you met lately who inspires you? Who have you talked to with a contagious passion and enthusiasm? The term “movers and shakers” definitely applies to the three I’ve mentioned today. How can you or I make the world a better place? What causes do we need to champion?