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The Hancock Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce Hancock County’s Top 10 Outstanding Citizens for 2024! This group of individuals come from all corners of the county and have made significant contributions to its growth, development and quality of life.  

John Brdecka

John moved to Hancock County in the fall of 2021 from the Chicagoland area after accepting the position of Executive Director for the Hancock County Library System. In this role, he oversees all functions of the Library System. John spent most of his career at Northwestern University Libraries working his way up to Interim Associate University Librarian for Resource Delivery & Management. He is a graduate of Leadership Hancock Class of 2022 and is an active member of the Hancock Chamber Board, Leadership Hancock Steering Committee and the Chamber’s Education Committee. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis, and was recognized with the Vocational Excellence Award this year. He is projected to be Club President for 2026/27. John is also a CASA Advocate. 

Kelly Cannon

Kelly Cannon, originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, began his journey to Hancock County in 1989 when he became a broker for State Farm Insurance Company in Waveland. Kelly describes moving his family to Waveland, as “the single best decision” of his life, second only to marrying his wife, Julie. The couple quickly integrated into the community, forging lasting friendships through the Waveland Civic Association and the Jaycees. Over the years, Kelly has contributed to the community by coaching youth baseball and soccer and supporting various local initiatives such as CASA. His dedication and service were recognized when he served as the Grand Marshal for the 2023 Waveland Civic Association St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Michael Casano

Longtime Diamondhead resident and attorney Michael Casano has been a dedicated force for good in the community, and this year he elevated his impact even further. Following the loss of his beloved yellow lab, Sadie, Michael channeled his grief into launching the inaugural Sadiefest, an event featuring an auction and live music to benefit Friends of the Hancock County Animal Shelter. Over $13,000 was raised for the shelter and is now set to become an annual tradition. Michael’s law firm, established in 2006, now has offices in Diamondhead and Gulfport. He is also a partner in Aloha Wine & Spirits, another successful local business. Beyond his professional endeavors, Michael actively supports community causes such as CASA and has offered pro-bono services to law enforcement personnel. His commitment to service is further highlighted by his decade-long tenure as a Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Melanie Hotard

Known for her positivity and community spirit, Melanie Hotard has made significant contributions to Hancock County since moving to Bay St. Louis. As the supervisor of volunteer services and community outreach for Ochsner Health Center – Hancock, Melanie connects with the community through initiatives that enhance patient experiences and provide local youth with healthcare career opportunities. She serves on multiple boards, including the Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis, Hancock County Tourism, the Hancock Health Foundation and the Hancock Chamber as chair of the Ambassadors Committee. Her leadership extends to various committees including the Bay St. Louis Christmas Committee, Excel By 5 and as Co-Chair of Port Air Space Day in the Bay with Partners for Stennis & Michoud. Melanie’s commitment to the Bay St. Louis Boys and Girls Club and King’s Kitchen further demonstrates her dedication to improving the lives of residents. Known for her inclusive nature and ability to inspire others, Melanie ensures that everyone feels welcomed and valued in the community.

Wesley Labat

The community is thankful for Wesley Labat who works always behind the scenes bringing light to others in need. So often we take people like Wesley for granted, failing to fully appreciate their assistance in keeping things running smoothly at events that are part of the very heart and soul of members of the community—weddings, funerals, engagements and any other special events. If there is an event that is important to a member of the community, Wesley and the Labat family will be there to support the community to make the magic happen and keep the ball rolling. And, they have a legacy that spans generations in Hancock County. Wesley has a strong work ethic, always putting family and friends first, never seeking recognition or awards. His kind words and welcoming smile always bring joy and comfort to others. He has been a member of the Retrofit Community Service Organization since its founding and serves as treasurer sponsoring school supply drives each year, funerals to help families in need and sponsor the Christmas gift celebration and breakfast with Santa. Wesley has been a member of the St. Rose de Lima Finance Council for many years supporting the Church.

Jenise McCardell

Jenise McCardell, co-owner of the historic Gallery 220 in Bay St. Louis has been a cornerstone in the local arts community, especially after revitalizing the gallery with a fresh makeover. Established as one of Mississippi’s oldest and most popular artist cooperative galleries, Gallery 220 boasts an ever-changing display of paintings, photos, pottery, jewelry, sculptures, and more from 27 local artists. Following Hurricane Katrina, McCardell with her husband Mark founded the cooperative to support displaced beachfront artists, further cementing their commitment to fostering creative energy. They also run the popular Clay Creations studio within the same building, renowned for its colorful murals. The gallery, known for its vibrant and diverse artist community, features monthly artist showcases and seasonal displays, providing a dynamic platform for both emerging and established artists. Through her work with Gallery 220, McCardell not only nurtures artistic talent but also enriches the cultural fabric of Bay St. Louis.

Kendra M. Necaise

Kendra McArthur Necaise’s journey from the casino floor to Advertising & Publicity Manager at Silver Slipper Casino Hotel reflects her dedication and perseverance over 17 years. Balancing full-time work and full-time coursework as a single mother, Kendra earned her bachelor’s degree from USM in business administration. Beyond her professional achievements, Kendra is deeply committed to community service, volunteering extensively with organizations like the Hancock Chamber and Junior Auxiliary (JA) of Hancock County. As a member of JA, she has spearheaded initiatives like the ongoing child welfare project, providing crucial support to a local toddler battling Leukemia. For JA, Kendra’s leadership also extends to serve in roles as Scholarship & PR Chair. She remains actively engaged in Pearlington Impact, Hancock High School and her church, advocating for involvement in initiatives that enhance Hancock County. A graduate of Leadership Hancock and member of the steering committee she inspires others to contribute to the county’s prosperity and well-being.

Jimmy Osbourn

Known locally as “King Crab,” Jimmy Osbourn is a beloved figure in Bay St. Louis, renowned for his integral role in the annual Our Lady of the Gulf Crab Fest. For over 30 of the festival’s 40-year history, Jimmy has been a driving force behind this cherished Fourth of July tradition, which draws nearly 70,000 visitors to enjoy the best local seafood and entertainment found anywhere in the Region. From humble beginnings stirring a pot, Jimmy now coordinates the extensive preparations required to host thousands of attendees over three days. His dedication to the festival, alongside community efforts, ensures its success year after year. This event not only provides financial support for the Church but also fuels small businesses throughout the Bay area. Jimmy’s love for Bay St. Louis and his commitment to maintaining its vibrant traditions make him a true pillar of the community.

Amanda Pidgeon

Amanda Pidgeon has dedicated her life to giving back to her community, particularly through education and service. With seventeen years as a high school English teacher at her alma mater, Hancock High School, Amanda teaches English IV, AP Literature and Dual Credit English Composition while also serving as an adjunct professor at Pearl River Community College. As sponsor of the award-winning Hancock High School Beta Club, she has guided students to achieve significant state and national accolades while contributing over 5000 service hours in the past three years. Amanda’s community impact is further evidenced through her involvement with the Junior Auxiliary of Hancock County, where she has initiated numerous projects benefiting local children and families, such as the Share the Warmth coat drive and The Big Read book fair. Additionally, Amanda plays a vital role in state-level initiatives as Mississippi’s State Beta Club sponsor. Amanda’s selfless efforts have profoundly benefitted Hancock County, showcasing her exceptional leadership and commitment to service.

John Wiebmer

After retiring from a distinguished career at Caterpillar, John relocated to Bay St. Louis in 2015 and quickly became a cornerstone of the community. His leadership, honed as director of strategy and marketing for Caterpillar’s mining division, has profoundly influenced Hancock County. John’s community involvement includes pivotal roles such as Board President of the Hancock County Community Development Foundation and other leadership positions with the Library Foundation of Hancock County, the Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis and Main Street United Methodist Church. Known for his philanthropy, John revitalized 3 homes on Hancock Street and generously supports local organizations like The Arts, Hancock County, St Stanislaus College and many others. He warmly welcomes visitors, sharing his deep knowledge of the region’s history and culture. John continues to foster growth and community spirit in Bay St Louis, embodying a legacy of leadership and civic engagement.

Outstanding Citizens and other award recipients will be honored during the Annual Salute to Business & Industry Awards Gala on Thursday, Aug. 29th at Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast. A reception opens at 5:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $80 per person. This event typically sells out, so please make reservations soon. A silent auction will be held to benefit the Hancock County Community Development Foundation. Register online at Those wishing to donate silent auction items should call the Hancock Chamber at 228.467.9048 or email Janice Jones at to coordinate.

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