Southern Bell, Bess DeBetham is the standard by which any community leader in the Borough of Queens is judged by. A firm believer in giving back to the community, Bess has donated her time to several community and civic organizations, as well as an active member of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton since its inception in 1972, and has served on the Board of Directors since 1978.
Born and raised in Alabama, Bess moved to New York after graduating from Pickens County High School in 1959. She started her professional career in 1963 as an information operator for AT&T before being promoted to Assistant Staff Manager at Corporate Headquarters in Parsippany, New Jersey. Before retirement in 1989, she was promoted to Accounts Receivable Manager in Melville, Long Island where she enjoyed a successful tenure.
In 1991 the Late, Former Councilwoman Juanita E. Watkins asked Bess to come out of retirement and apply her respected knowledge of the community to the 31st Council District staff. Bess served as office manager and director of constituent services. Working side by side with former Council Member Watkins, Bess had the opportunity to assist in helping to solve the problems affecting the community and the lives of local constituents.
Bess is a member of the Greater Allen Cathedral, A.M.E of Jamaica, NY. She is also a member of Community Board 13 and serves on two significant committees: Land Use and Public Safety and she is the chair of the Transportation Committee. In January 2003, Borough President Helen Marshall appointed her to the Queens General Assembly and in 2013 Bess was also appointed to the Noise Task Force by Councilman Donovan Richards.
Recognizing her leadership qualities and community commitment, Bess was asked by Former Assemblyman Bill Scarborough to help organize a local development corporation that would be called the Local Development Corporation of Laurelton, Rosedale, and Springfield Gardens, she was appointed the chairperson of that board.
Bess’ years of dedication, ethics and commitment to self-improvement have distinguished her as a “special gem” in her community, a beacon of good will and good works. Her many accolades include: The Laurelton Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club, Inc., Salute to Women – Queens Council Boy Scouts of America; Citation of Honor-Queens Borough President Claire Shulman; The Pacesetters Award – Former Councilman James Sanders, Jr.; Unsung Hero Award – Congressman Gregory Meeks; City of New York Proclamation – Councilman Donovan Richards and Special Congressional Recognition Award – Congressman Gregory Meeks.