By SHERI GASSAWAY
A crowd of union brothers and sisters, Jefferson County officials and friends and family gathered Feb.13 to pay tribute to Bart Velasco for his 30 years of dedicated service as president of the Jefferson County Labor Club.
Velasco, an IBEW Local 1 retiree and one of the original organizers of the club, announced plans to step down from his post in December. Velasco passed the leadership torch to fellow IBEW Local 1 Brother Chuck DeMoulin in January.
More than 100 people attended the retirement celebration, which was held VFW 3777 Hall in Festus. Velasco was honored with awards from the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, IAFF Local 2665 District 5, the city of Arnold and the club itself.
GENUINE DEDICATION TO LABOR
Labor Council President Pat White thanked Velasco for his genuine dedication to the Labor community. White, who has served on labor club executive boards since he was 22, said he fully understands the commitment it takes in serving on a labor club executive board.
“I know what it’s like to spend a Saturday interviewing everyone from dog catcher up to state representative,” White said. “I have a special place in my heart for what you guys and gals do because I’ve done the job, and I can tell you no one has had the back of Jefferson County labor folks more than Bart.”
CHAMPION FOR EVERY CAUSE
Tim Hoffman, vice president of IAFF Local 2665 District 5, presented Velasco with a gold retirement axe simply inscribed, “A true friend.” He thanked Velasco for his role in establishing the Main Event and Fill the Boot campaigns, both of which benefit the Backstoppers.
“Bart has been a champion for every cause we’ve ever had, whether it be a candidate or a proposition or the Backstoppers,” said Hoffman, who also serves on the club’s executive board. “He’s been in our corner, and we can’t thank him enough.”
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
In presenting Velasco with an honor on behalf of the city, Arnold Mayor Ron Counts commended him for his personal efforts, volunteerism and service to the Arnold and the Jefferson County communities.
“Bart is one of those people who goes that extra mile to make a difference in our community and the lives of others,” Counts said. “On behalf of myself and the city council, thank you Bart for all of your accomplishments.”
DeMoulin, the club’s new president and an IBEW business representative, called his brother, his mentor and more importantly, his friend, and presented him with an award on behalf of the club for his 30 years of devoted service.
“Tonight is all about Bart, his family and friends and what he has done for all of us,” DeMoulin said. “Mere words cannot express our sincere gratitude and we thank you for your tireless efforts. Congratulations on your retirement.”
LAUGHTER, MEMORIES AND A FEW TEARS
As expected, the evening was filled with laughter, memories and a few tears as Velasco took to the stage. First, he thanked everyone in the room for being at the event and for their friendship and support throughout the years.
“My stomach is rolling,” he said. “You don’t fall in love with something for 30 years and walk away from it without some emotions. But after 30 years, it’s time to step aside and let someone with sharper eyes, better vision and an understanding of what needs to be done take the job.”
Velasco also thanked his family for the many times he had to miss their games, events and other gatherings because of his obligations to the club. He also expressed his gratitude to Bob Kelley, former president of the St. Louis Labor Council, for providing organizational guidance to the club.
“When we started this club 30 years ago, we didn’t know what we were doing,” Velasco said. “But, we’ve built a beautiful tapestry woven of several unique and caring individuals.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Jefferson County Labor Club, founded in 1986, meets the second Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at 4 Main St. in Festus. For more information, call (636) 933-9466.