The West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce closed out its annual banquet Thursday with the most anticipated announcement of the evening — Citizen of the Year.
The group usually selects a businessperson for the award, but this year it veered from tradition by selecting longtime Sulphur Police Department volunteer and now spokesman Mel Estess.
Chamber head Lena McArthur said Estess’ commitment to the community and to his family makes him a “great example of what a citizen of the year represents.”
Estess said he was completely surprised by the announcement, which had been a closely guarded secret. “I guess two people have been shocked this week — Donald Trump and myself,” Estess said, evoking a laugh from the crowd.
Estess, originally from Baton Rouge, moved to Sulphur in 1983 to work as a pipefitter. The next year he became the youth pastor at Victory Worship Center, where he served for 22 years in various capacities, including Victory Worship Christian Academy principal and administrative pastor.
Estess also worked 25 years as a reserve officer and chaplain for the Sulphur Police Department. Since 2006, he has been a full-time employee and serves as internal affairs manager, chaplain and public information officer. He served as provisional police chief in 2011.
Estess has worn a number of other public service hats. He served two terms on the Sulphur City Council in the 1990s; served as president of Crime Stoppers in 2011; and is president of the Care Help board. He is a member of West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce Board and the Rotary Club of Sulphur, where he was president in 2000-2001. He was named Rotarian of the Year in 2006 and received the Service Above Self Award in 2013.
During the little free time he has, Estess said, he enjoys hunting and sharing his hunting expertise with beginners in the community.
He has been married to his wife, Billie, for 55 years and has three children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.