By: Joan Davis, AN17.com
HAMMOND — The city of Hammond will receive its trophy in a couple weeks as state champion in Division H of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation’s Cleanest City Contest.
Jean Gilstrap, state chairman, was winding down Monday out fishing on a lake in Farmerville after notifying the state winners Friday.
Hammond’s seventh straight win on the state level puts the city in a unique category, she said.
“Nobody has earned the state award more than four times in a row,” Gilstrap said. “For a city to win as many times as Hammond and not anybody beat them, that is basically unheard of. When they won five in a row, that was something. To win seven, oh yeah, that’s extremely important. They’re doing everything they can to do it right.”
Gilstrap has given credit to organizations that help with cleanup, like Keep Hammond Beautiful and Hammond Garden Club, but she also credits Mayor Mayson Foster for the seven straight wins.
“Hammond would win a few, then lose a few, until he came along,” Gilstrap said. “I believe mayors in a town have a lot to do with that. Anytime you have a mayor that is conscious of the environment, then you will have a winning city.”
For that same reason, she is cautioning Hammond that one of its competitors has that same type of mayor — Houma. Houma came in second place and Sulphur third.
“They (Houma) got as close as anybody has gotten,” she said. “Hammond needs to be on its P’s and Q’s for next year.”
Competition for state winner is always tougher, and Gilstrap said judges are looking for “the fine tuning,” more than being free of litter. Judges are looking for the presence of tall weeds in the fences and parking lots, vines growing up buildings and flower beds that need weeding. If competition is particularly fierce, judges may go off the prescribed route. This year, they did not.
Despite Hammond’s winning presentation, Gilstrap said there is always room for improvement. Constant improvement is always the goal. No city has ever received a perfect score, but a few have come close. Marion received a 999, which is close, and so has Hammond, once in years back.
“Marion actually won it two years in a row because they had one piece of litter in the whole town,” Gilstrap said.
The Federation does honor cities that consistently excel in competition, Gilstrap said. The Dorothy Ann George Award goes to the city with the highest score in the state in any category in any given year after winning state competition three years in a row. Hammond’s record seven wins would include it in that competition provided it received the top score.
Gilstrap said she will announce the winner when she delivers the trophies to state winners.
Foster was eager to distribute accolades to everyone who helped in the cleanup effort.
“It is very exciting to be able to be recognized by the Louisiana Garden Club Federation for this many times,” he said. “I do need to commend the city of Hammond, TEAM Hammond, and I particularly want to thank the Keep Hammond Beautiful Committee for all of their hard work and their monthly cleanup campaigns.”
He also thanked Hammond Garden Club, which he said has been integral to the city’s success.
Foster said the city will continue in its efforts to remain the state’s Cleanest City.
“We look forward to next year, and we do believe we will be better prepared,” he said. “We had some challenges this year, including a tremendous thunderstorm that came through the city at about 6 o’clock in the morning. This washed up quite a bit of debris out of the ditches, and our people were working diligently to get it cleaned.”
Keeping Hammond clean is more than litter pickup, he added.
“We know that keeping clean is a year-round task, and we work hard at that,” he said. “The city has also has a semi-annual hazardous waste pickup, and our weekly recycling efforts were impressive to the judges.”