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A citizen with great influence - The Galveston County Daily News : Editorials

November 27, 2014

A citizen with great influence

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Posted: Saturday, April 19, 2014 12:00 am

The Daily News named George P. Mitchell as its Citizen of the Year.

The award is Mitchell’s second — and sadly it was posthumous.

He died last summer at age 94.

More than most cities, Galveston has been enriched by people who have invested in it, sometimes against the laws of logic.

After the 1900 Storm, Galveston had spirited souls, great and small, who built the seawall and raised the grade of the island behind it.

They raised houses, churches and commercial buildings with jacks and pumped sand underneath.

It takes a special kind of person — something of a contrarian — to do that instead of moving to safer environments.

After Hurricane Ike struck in 2008, Mitchell, who was not exactly a young man, was looking at $26 million damage to his 18 buildings on The Strand.

Insurance covered about half the loss.

Many people with interests in downtown Galveston held their breath. But Mitchell, unshaken, started to rebuild.

When he did, others followed his example.

The Daily News is honoring that spirit — his spirit — with this award. You can read the whole story in Profiles, an annual magazine, which is included in today’s edition.

At a reception Thursday, Bill Ross, president of Mitchell Historic Properties, accepted the award on behalf of the Mitchell family.

In an eloquent speech, Ross pointed out that wherever you go in Galveston, you see Mitchell’s influence — the hotels he built or renovated, the Texas A&M campus on Pelican Island, the fine subdivisions on the West End. His influence is everywhere.

Ross told the story of how George and Cynthia Mitchell were once driving down California’s coast. Cynthia remarked on the spectacular beauty of the place.

George replied, “Well, it’s nice, but it’s not Galveston.”

It takes a special kind of person — perhaps something of a contrarian — to see the potential of a place that others overlook.

That’s why George P. Mitchell is his hometown newspaper’s Citizen of the Year.

 • Heber Taylor