I have known this individual for many years now and have seen them involved in many things. Prior to and since his retirement a couple of years ago, this individual has served the Ponchatoula and Tangipahoa community with unquestionable dedication. From time spent on the Strawberry Board and Youth Service Bureau Board to civic groups, including Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce. I have also watched him (and helped at times) get involved in many hobbies, including leading Mardi Gras krewes, helping others in times of need, and most recently, cooking.
For the longest time, I thought anyone with a grill, that didn’t burn the meat, was a good BBQ cook. Well, I had shared some meals with this person, including many times that one, or both of us, spent time at the grill cooking everything from Chicken to ribs, steak to pork. One day, this person decided it was time to invest in something better than just a grill – it was time to get a smoker. And not just any old smoker that you can buy at Academy. Nope, a real professional one. The first thing that was cooked on it? Ribs. Pretty good ribs, too. Then, a week later, more ribs. And the next week? Ribs. See, we ate ribs almost every Sunday for a year. Some were great – sweet with a hint of spice and tender, practically falling off the bone with a great smoke ring (see, I’ve paid attention). Some, weren’t so great and a few times, they were just not edible.
As he got better at this, he started adding things to his repertoire and equipment to his trailer. Soon enough, he was off, competing in BBQ competitions. Through this hobby, he began meeting great friends from all over. When our community was devastated by flooding in 2016, he, along with a few others, reached out and brought some relief through Operation BBQ Relief. Since, he has worked with this organization to meet the needs of families impacted by natural disasters. How many can say they turned a hobby into a way to positively impact those suffering at one of their most vulnerable points?
This is just one way this person acts on their desire to serve others. Throughout his 18 years in the Ponchatoula community, he has made Ponchatoula his home and worked for the betterment of the community. His desire to see Ponchatoula and all of its citizens be as successful and cared for as possible makes him most deserving of this honor. This has been most evident recently in his service representing West Ponchatoula on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, as a member, vice president, and president. So, without further ado, please help me congratulate our Ponchatoula Citizen of the Year – Mr. Mike Whitlow.