Biloxi is in his blood and this special part of the world is where he has chosen to settle and grow his loving family. If you’ve ever known anyone from “da point” (Point Cadet) then you know what a unique breed multi-generational Biloxians can be.
The smell of freshly piled oyster shells, salty sea water and the aroma of slick, grey mud from the Mississippi Sound is repellent to some. To Biloxian, Larry Sablich, it’s the smell of home and the memory of his deeply-rooted past.
To grow up here is one thing; to be afforded the opportunity to return and make your living so immersed in the rich culture is quite another.
Larry moved to Gonzalez, Louisiana in the 1980’s but in 1994 he returned and began working as dock-side security with the Biloxi Port Commission. About a year later, the BPC restructured their staffing needs and Larry was laid off. However, in true Biloxi “spit and vinegar” fashion, Larry’s tenacity landed him a job as one of many harbor masters in 1997.
He remained as Harbor Master until 2004 at which time he became the Maintenance Supervisor. That job lasted until 2013 when Larry decided to apply for the position of Port Manager with the City of Biloxi.
The city had taken over the functions and responsibilities previously held by the Biloxi Port Commission. Now, the fishing piers and harbors are under what is known as the Biloxi Port Division.
Larry says,”It’s been a blessing. We are expecting all of the rebuilding from Katrina to be completed in a couple of months. It’s exciting to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
With his associate’s degree in business from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College on the Perkinston campus, Larry manages the day-to-day operations of many facilities in Biloxi. From the fishing pier to the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor and the Point Cadet Marina to the Biloxi Small Craft Commercial Dock, Larry Sablich has his hand (and heart) extended in the lives of nearly every fisherman in the area.
As we walked through the grey, sleety day at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, a fisherman calls out to Larry. Larry turns his face into the bitterly cold wind and spitting ice and calls the boat captain by name. When the local, Biloxi captain asks Larry to pass along a message to the nightshift harbor master, Larry gladly obliges. It is that close-knit, casual, relationship that goes beyond business and delves into friendship and camaraderie.
“This job is like running a hotel on water. We lease the boat slips, collect the money and perform all upkeep and maintenance duties related to the harbors and fishing piers,” Larry said.
About 75% of the boat tenants at the recreational docks are local folks and all the commercial boats are local. Larry has noticed that things have changed over the last decade or so. All of the really big boats are gone as are the smallest ones. It’s all about the mid-sized boats now.
The Biloxi Port Division is unique in the fact that they are funded from their collection of monies related to the leasing of the boat slips. Some revenue comes from traveling boats especially in the summertime. They also have Gorenflo’s Bait and Tackle and the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor Bait and Fuel store that they lease to help offset the cost of keeping such a large venture running smoothly and the payroll paid on time.
The Billfish Tournament and Southern Kingfish Association Tournament also provide a great boost to the bank account.
Pat Kuluz and his wife, Linda, have been operating the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor bait and Fuel store since the late 1980’s. Danny Pitalo and his wife, Lori, have run the Gorenflos Bait shop for over 20 years.
Slips for recreational vessels are available but slips for commercial boats are only available by being put on a waiting list. If you have any questions regarding any part of the Biloxi Port Divisions’ operations, please call their office at 228-374-6600.