The Port Arthur News
As a business owner, John Bernard knows the importance of staying abreast of government affairs.
He also realizes that small businesses can’t afford a lobbyist and believes this is an area in which the local chamber of commerce can help.
Bernard, president/CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., will take the helm as the 2013 chairman of the Nederland Chamber of Commerce during a banquet Thursday night.
Seated in his office at ABC, 2700 N. Twin City Hwy., Bernard turns toward his computer, fingers flicking rapidly across his keyboard. A large calendar takes up a majority of the space on his desk, and appointments are carefully penned in a neat handwriting.
A combat veteran having served in the U.S. Marines with two tours in Vietnam under his belt, Bernard is an avid outdoorsman. Several paintings on his wall show Gulf scenes of boats and a ferry, a mounted bass hangs from one area and deer antlers hang from another spot. Besides running a successful business and transitoning to the position of chamber chairman, Bernard is also president of Coastal Conservation Association-Sabine/Neches Chapter.
His conversation turns to his upcoming role with the chamber. He said some people may not like it, the chamber needs to become more political.
“As the 2013 chairman I will emphasize the importance of being proactive in government affairs. The 2013 Legislature will convene shortly and there will be many issues that will be hitting us close to home as business owners,” Bernard said. “We are very blessed to have local lawmakers who ‘get it’ and understand what it takes to run a business and how politics are making it increasingly harder to grow and be successful.”
Legislative topics which are close to the heart, and small business, include such issues as junior water rights. He recalled how a recent drought nearly devastated the area and gave kudos to our forefathers who had the insight to build reservoirs. But, he said, “now we need more.”
“We will be forming a government affairs committee in January,” he said.
It will be the committee’s job to keep an eye on issues that will affect small businesses and to make their presence known in Austin.
Bernard’s predecessor at the chamber, Pam Berry, called him a no-nonsense man who’s also a big hearted, smart businessman.
“I think he’ll continue to lead the chamber in the right direction,” Berry said.
Berry summed up her year as chairman and called 2012 a wonderful year for the chamber.
Through the year the chamber participated in both new and established events such as the Fourth of July extravaganza and Jinni Akins was hired as president of the chamber last year.
“A lot of success was due to her and the support of a strong board,” she said. “I’m excited to see the chamber continue to grow.”
Bernard is a graduate of Lamar University and previously worked for Texaco Inc., Gulf States Utilities/Entergy-Texas and Alliance Engineering. He serves on the board of directors of the Nederland Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Energy Museum and is an alumni of Leadership Southeast Texas and is president of Coastal Conservation Association-Sabine/Neches Chapter.
He lives in Bridge City with his wife, Kimberly, and their family includes three daughters and three grandchildren.