The race is on; Candidates address critical issues

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CANDIDATES IN AUG. 15 RUN OFF

Candidates in the run off election for City of Natchitoches Mayor and Council seats in Districts 3 and 4 responded to your, and our, questions. The questions were emailed to all six candidates at once July 21 at 11:56 a.m. The questions were included in a JT column in the weekend, July 25 edition and reminders were emailed Tuesday, July 27 at 8:45 a.m.

The candidates were also contacted via Facebook Messenger when available. Only four of the six candidates responded by the 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 27 deadline. Their answers, unedited and in their own words, follow and appear in the order they were received.

NT:  About you: education, job/business, family.

Posey: I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from Northwestern State University in 1974. Most people know me as owning and operating Posey Sports Center for 36 years here in Natchitoches. Serving as a City Councilman for 20 years was truly beneficial when I was elected Mayor of the City of Natchitoches in 2012, where I have humbly served for the past 8 years. I am married to Evie Norman Posey of Natchitoches and together we have three children, Whitney Weiner (Neil), Rob Posey (Michelle), Amanda Gowdy (Bennett), along with eight grandchildren.

Petite:  I am a graduate of Natchitoches Central High School, class of 2003. I’m employed by Roy O Martin – Plywood. I have been with the company for 14 years. I am married to Charlotte Preylo-Petite and we have four children. I am a member of My Father’s

Morrow: I am a lifelong resident of Natchitoches, Louisiana and a graduate of Central High School (1965), Natchitoches, La., Received a business diploma from Central Area Trade School (1968) Natchitoches, La. *Northwestern State University – Received an Early Childhood Degree (1997), Received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baptist Christian College-Shreveport, La. (1992) *Returned to Northwestern State University (18) hours above a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education *National Foundation For Teaching Entrepreneurship Certified Teacher – July 9, 2007 (NFTE University- National Foundation For Teaching Entrepreneurship) *National League of Cities University – (Leadership Excellence) 38 hours (2018)  *Bachelor of Arts In Christian Education (2019) Eagles in Flight Academy. * Former Director of (a.) Happy Day Nursery (b.) A.A. Fredricks Childcare Center Retired from Natchitoches Parish School System as a Special Education Teacher. Family-I have four sisters and one brother. I had the proud opportunity to raise my two nephews – Michael Morrow and Eric Morrow and my niece, Juryurlonda M. Owens.

Washington-Elie: I am Rosemary Washinton Elie and married to Shannon Elie for seventeen years. We are both career oriental individuals. I am a native of Natchitoches, Louisiana and a member of Saint Anthony Catholic Church. I have been employed with the United State Postal Service for twelve years. I have worked in the Community of Transportation with the Natchitoches Parish School Board as a bus assistant for seventeen years; Home Health for twelve years and worked with Domestic Violence with abused and battered women at D.O.V.E.S. for six years. I am a graduate of Natchitoches Central High School and attended Northwestern State University attaining an associate degree in Criminal Justice. I have always had the compassion and involved with helping my community since I was young.

NT: There are several empty business locations in the city including Chicken Express, Hardee’s, Venezia’s Garden, Ace Hardware and others.  What is your strategy to get businesses into these locations?

Posey: Most of the business closures we have seen in the last 6 months have been attributed to the financial loss as a direct result of COVID-19. We all hate to see any business close and unfortunately, that is the reality of the world we are living in today. However, just as we see a business close, there is always a new business opening. Just recently, the City announced several new businesses including Hobby Lobby, McAlister’s and Whataburger, who despite the current situation with the pandemic, are moving forward with their developments in Natchitoches. Two local, established car dealerships are expanding their businesses to create a new auto mall next to the interstate. Future plans for new businesses and previous business owners to reopen are already being addressed.

Petite:  In order to get businesses up and rolling we must consider the thoughts and opinions of the residents in the city of Natchitoches. We should offer a survey and get a feel of what the residents needs are. If not new restaurants/businesses will continue to fail. Let’s not forget about our small business we should look to promote growth and expansion and lend support if possible.

Morrow: My strategy for getting new businesses into the empty locations would be to share with the Municipal Exchange about various vacancies and the type of business that would be best for our impact area. I would like for a business to locate in one of the facilities for jobs.

Washington Elie: My strategy to get businesses into these locations is a feasibility study that includes Northwestern State University Business Department; advertisement and other resources.

NT: Industry in the parish and city include International Paper in Campti, Weyerhaeuser Trus-Joist, Pilgrim’s Pride, the Port and Alliance.  What is your strategy to bring more industry to the area and what location would you promote to entice them?

Posey: First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge the thriving industries we currently have and the importance of community partnership with those industries. It has been imperative during my time in office to establish relationships with these industries, from a leadership perspective, in order to keep those industries in our community for economic development, but most importantly for the livelihood of our citizens. In turn, these industries have proven to be successful in our community, opening the door for future industries to locate to our area. The City has entertained five of the larger site selector companies with the help of NLEP (North Louisiana Economic Partnership) and CLEDA (Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance). Natchitoches is fortunate to lie between two regions and benefit from two economic development partnerships. The City receives assistance from both entities in order ascertain areas in our community for new industries to locate. These entities work hand in hand with the industries by searching for a prepared workforce and educational opportunities in local communities.

Petite: In order to bring more industry to the area we must have something to offer. Affordable housing and safe communities. We must make sure that our high school students who are not attending college are viable / ready for the workforce. The Jump Start program is one of the programs that fosters this idea.

Morrow: As a municipal leader I’m always attending conferences and round-table seminars for small towns, I would use this strategy to share my interest with the various business directors letting them know that I would like to see them locate in my area. One company in particular, would be the USDA Rural Development Broadband Re-Connect Company. We already have a local USDA Rural Development Agency located on Natchitoches By Pass. All the new directors would have to do is meet with the City officials and the Natchitoches Industrial Development commission and share the details about the project and the various funding sources. One site I recommend for this new industry would be one of the buildings near the Brewery on Mill Street.  This program will bring more jobs to our area.

Washington Elie: My strategy to bring more industry to the area is tax structure and stop considering the City of Natchitoches as a retirement community.

NT: What types of youth programs do you hope to implement, improve or introduce?

Posey: The City’s goal was for the Boys and Girls Club to be operational by September 2020, but these plans have been placed on hold due to the pandemic. The City has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Acadiana to reestablish this program in our community for our youth. I personally have witnessed the positive outcomes and success of youth who participate in this program and look forward to offering this opportunity in the future. The City was also successful in hosting day camps for our city’s youth in years past. I hope to revisit and form partnerships throughout the community, in which we can offer these programs again, to include arts and crafts, sewing, cooking, recreation, etc. for our city’s youth.

Petite: We should look to develop programs that are accessible to every community (Boys & Girls Club & etc.) Recreational sports and after school programs serve as a perfect tool to mentor our kids and to help prepare them to succeed in life and meet their goals. We must strengthen our youth development programs so that our children have a real shot at success.

Morrow: The City of Natchitoches became a Let’s Move City back in 2010.  I would like to improve this program by keeping our city children healthy. I would like to host more events to keep our children healthy. I would like to host events at Dr. Martin Luther King Center and utilize the Downtown Riverbank area. The type of activities would include (a) youth walk rallies (b) Healthy Snacks for Children (c) Family Jogging Events. The Let’s Move Program was implemented back in 2010 by First Lady Michelle Obama. She was concerned about all of our children throughout the nation being healthy.

Washington Elie: The types of youth programs I hope to implement are: (1) Literacy Program (2) Tutorial Program (3) Big Brothers and Big Sisters Club.

NT: What specific infrastructure projects do you consider priority?

Posey: In the last 5 years, the City has spent over 20 million dollars in infrastructure improvements across the city. Some of these improvements include: * 2014- 2018 Street Rehabilitation Program in East and West Natchitoches * West Natchitoches Water Line Replacement Phase 1, 2017-18 * East Natchitoches Water Lines Upgrade and Replacement 2019 * New Water Plant Decant System * New Master Lift Station (Sewer Improvement) * Under Ground Electric Lines Replacement City wide * Rehabilitation of City Water Tanks – Pilgrim’s Pride Bypass, Grand Ecore Road, Amulet Street * Park Improvements – City Park, Ross Williams Park, Pierson Mallett Park It is my goal to continue utilizing funds for priority infrastructure improvements and upgrades for water, streets, sewer and electric in our city. We are a growing, but aging community when it comes to our infrastructure needs. These improvements are necessary to provide our citizens with enhanced water quality, improved streets for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and a safer community for all.

Petite: I believe that we should continue to make upgrades to our water, streets (neighborhood roads), drainage and sewer systems. These key issues must be addressed for our neighborhoods to truly thrive.

Morrow: The specific infrastructure projects that I would consider a priority would be the following: (a) Street overlay project (b) Drainage repairs (c) Safe signage throughout he neighborhood.

Washington Elie: The specific infrastructure projects I consider priority are: (1) overlay of roads (2) poor drainage (3) abandon and burned properties.

NT: If you are elected (or re-elected) what do you hope to leave as your legacy at the end of your four-year term?

Posey: If re-elected, my answer is very simple. I hope to leave a legacy as a mayor who worked and strived to make the City of Natchitoches the best it can be. As great as we have been in the past, I truly believe we can be even greater and more prosperous in the future.

Petite: I would hope to have been a person who led with great integrity. Who have exemplified moral and ethical principles. That I may be known as one who made sound decisions for my community. That I was honest in my interactions and a good steward of the taxpayer’s dollars.

Morrow: If I’m re-elected I would like to leave a legacy at the end of my four years that I’ve overlaid the majority of the streets and that improvements in area of drainage was addressed. Sidewalks are needed in certain areas of the district and certainly I would like to see sidewalks on Fairground Road in the Jackson Square Community. My lasting legacy would be that I worked cooperatively with the Mayor, members of the City Council, department heads and staff members. My final legacy is that I brought lasting partnerships to our city. May I share with everyone that our citizens are at the top of my priority list. It is my feelings when I’ve taken care of my district needs I’ve satisfied the people.  I’ve always served my constituents with dignity and pride.

Washington Elie:  If I am elected, I hope to leave as my legacy at the end of my four-year term to be known as a city council member who got the job done, representing my district and the City of Natchitoches.

NT: What experience do you have with managing and operating under a budget?

Posey: I have 36 years of experience in managing my own business which certainly prepared me for the job as Mayor of the City of Natchitoches. As Mayor, I have supervised the approximately $76 million budget for the city alongside a team of individuals with a vast knowledge and concept of the City’s finances. I believe in listening and working with our team to keep the City financially sound and utilizing our taxpayers’ dollars for their benefit now and in the future.

Petite: My experience with complicated budgets is very limited. As relating to management, as I stated I have worked in a plywood manufacturing facility for the last 14 years. In those 14 years I have had the opportunity to work in management for a total of 4 years. In that role I have learned that integrity, honesty, respect and stewardship is of the utmost importance. We must respect each other as human beings. As a manager (leader) we must also lead with great integrity. We must have moral and ethical principles in place so that one is able to make sound decisions. We must priorities and concentrate our funding where it will do the most good, so that all citizens of Natchitoches can share in the prosperity of our city. Transparency is key.

Morrow: The experiences I have managing and operating under a budget are: analyzing payroll, inventory, organizing legal documents and mail, budgeting expenses of a corporate office setting, supervising intel of employees, record keeping, managing and processing paperwork and a large volume of information files.

Washington Elie: The experiences I have managing and operating under a budget are: analyzing payroll, inventory, organizing legal documents and mail, budgeting expenses of a corporate office setting, supervising intel of employees, record keeping, managing and processing paperwork and a large volume of informa