“How to get Louisiana back in shape,” could have been the subtitle to the political forum for five mayoral candidates on Wednesday, March 26 at the American Legion Hall.
David Johner, Russell Stephens, Bart Niedner, Doug Dempsey and David Minor all took turns answering pointed questions from area media and the audience.
Several of the questions dealt with the candidates plans for economic development and city priorities.
Fixing streets, infrastructure and bringing the community back together to work as a team were Dempsey’s priorities.
Niedner said economic development is the biggest issue facing the town. The city needs to link regionally with others to grow economically, he said.
Stephens said he would work with the city economic director and research grants to attract business. The city needs to keep improving its infrastructure, he added.
Johner said the city will have to pull itself together, balance its budget and offer assistance to businesses to attract them.
Minor said the city shouldn’t raise taxes to progress but residents must help dig in for a long fight.
Stephens said he ran for mayor because “I want to make my home town better.” He said he is open to suggestions because “we can’t have too much information,” when making decisions.
Johner said “I can bring leadership” to city hall. Dealing with high water bills was a major motivator for running, he added.
Minor said his “sole purpose for running is to see tourism in this town.” That would help the tax base and produce money to pay for improvements, he said.
Niedner said he is running because it is his way to “give back to democracy.” The job of mayor is to not consolidate power, but rather to empower others, Nieder added.
Dempsey said he grew up in Louisiana “when it was thriving” and wants to help the city return to its heyday by not bickering.
Asked how to avoid nepotism, Stephens said although many are related in town, the city “can’t have nepotism,” and the mayor’s appointments should be researched to avoid it.
“Nepotism is defined by state statute. It’s illegal,” Niedner said. Those who appoint relatives to boards can be stripped of their office, he added. Board members can always abstain from a vote that involves a relative, he noted.
Minor said nepotism didn’t bother him. “It doesn’t matter who your are. Do you do the job right?” would be his requirement for appointments.
Johner said “nepotism is not a dirty word,” and it’s hard to avoid in a small town. However, efficiency reports on potential appointees would help, he said.
Dempsey said nepotism is “a double-edged sword,” and a problem for some and not for others. However, Dempsey said he wouldn’t appoint his brother or sister-in-law to any committee if elected.