Bobby Moody’s passing is a significant moment for Galveston, and I imagine it brings up a mix of emotions and memories for people because of both his personal impact and the historic influence his family has had on our island community. As a young kid, I spent a lot of time at the Moody’s house. My mom grew up with Bobby’s wife and my dad worked for him as his financial advisor.
Mostly, I am thankful to Bobby and his family for the kickstart they gave the Beach Patrol back in 1981. We were underfunded and understaffed for the growth in visitation and beach use. Forward thinking leaders realized that if the beaches weren’t clean and safe, a tourist beach town like Galveston would suffer.
The Beach Patrol and Beach Cleaning groups needed help to manage the increasing demand. The Moody Foundation gave a generous grant to Beach Patrol for equipment, Joe Max Taylor and the Sheriff Office provided structure, and Senator Babe Schwartz and others came up with an innovative solution to fund the lifeguard service through the Park Board, Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT).
To my knowledge, we were the first lifeguard service to be funded by HOT. Senator Schwartz proposed legislation that gave the Beach Patrol 1 penny for every dollar spent from the bed tax collected in Galveston. Many lifeguard services use the same formula now, as beach lifeguarding and tourism development are closely linked, considering the beach is our number one attraction.
And there have been funding changes since then. In 1993, we received an additional half a penny in anticipation of the first big sand nourishment project. But then, some HOT was pulled away from Beach Patrol and Coastal Zone Management (CZM) to help fund the convention center. Today, Beach Patrol is a Park Board department and receives 1.1667 pennies for every visitor dollar spent on short-term rentals and hotels.
This funding is critical for our operations, and it has, fortunately, grown with the increasing need as we see more beachgoers with each passing year. And the creation of new beaches and development projects will increase this demand even more. Because of this funding, we are currently able to efficiently meet our staffing demands and cover 34 lifeguard towers on 9 miles of beach, run summer patrols every day on the west end, a weekend patrol at the San Luis Pass, and provide 24/7/365 “on call” service for the citizens and tourists across 32 miles of beach and 70 miles of total waterfront adjacent to the island.
We run lean and hard. Close to 90% of our annual operation budget goes to salaries, and we currently effect half a million proactive preventative measures a year. We couldn’t do all this without a supportive community, every bit of the the HOT funding we receive, and an amazing, dedicated corps of lifeguards.
With the support of the Galveston community, GIBP is dedicated to continuing its much-needed work.