For the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic — and for the last time as mayor of Zachary — David Amrhein stood before a crowd of who’s who gathered Friday for his annual prayer breakfast at the Presbyterian Church. Plains.
Area politicians, local businesspeople, city employees, community figures and others flocked to the event, where Rotary Club members served attendees a breakfast prepared by the Zachary’s Fire Department. Held days before Veterans Day in the church’s patriotically decorated Center for Christian Living, the theme for this year’s event was “Honoring All Who Served,” and several service members and veterans have been recognized.
But the mayor and others also used the event to honor the service of those who work in city government and reflect on their accomplishments.
With Election Day just days away — and every political office in the city on the ballot — their remarks were a poignant reminder that the end of an era in Zachary is near.
Amrhein lamented that the 2020 and 2021 iterations of the annual breakfast, where guest speakers tend to offer messages of encouragement and calls for unity, had to be canceled due to pandemic restrictions.
“It’s a shame this is the last year we’re doing this together,” said Amrhein, who will step down in January after 12 years as mayor.
In keeping with the patriotic theme, Amrhein noted that approximately 30 veterans work for the town of Zachary. His department heads and staff members were key to his success as mayor, he said, and many even became close friends.
“I don’t do anything on my own,” he said. “We do everything together.”
Amrhein invited US Representative Garret Graves to be the guest speaker. Graves and his team, Amrhein said, were Zachary’s main supporters during his tenure and helped bring improvements to the area, including the Comite River Floodway.
Graves took the stage after veterans in the audience were honored — including Fred Dixon, Louisiana’s oldest living veteran and a resident of Zachary.
Graves said too many people take their freedoms for granted, never thinking about the sacrifices made in the past to make the American way of life possible.
“Do we properly respect the sacrifice…of those people who gave their lives, who fought for us, of all those dependents who said goodbye to their loved ones to be away for months or years or not never come back? said Graves. “Look at all the fights going on in America today. Look at all the polarizing politics, the divisions that are happening. »
He said Americans spend 90% of their time fighting over the 10% of things they disagree on. He encouraged attendees to focus on what they have in common with each other and work together to better their community — and to thank veterans for their service whenever possible.
Lonny Myles, the outgoing City Court judge and veteran himself, explained how efforts to create an independent, high-quality school system two decades ago brought Zachary together.
“We invested our money and we volunteered hours. It was amazing,” Myles said. “I don’t know about all of you, but it was the most community spirit I’ve ever seen in my life. People were on fire. »
He thanked his staff for helping him during his 28 years as a judge.
Amrhein said he was grateful for the community’s support over the years.
“I couldn’t imagine when I was in high school that anyone would ever want me to be their mayor,” he said.
The experience meant a lot to him.
“Being the mayor of the city where you were born and raised, where your parents were born and raised, where your grandparents were born and raised – and doing it for 12 years – says a lot” , did he declare.