Year in Review: Overcoming Challenges – City of Natchitoches

Mayor Ronnie Williams

Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr., City of Natchitoches

The year 2020 has provided our city and nation with many challenges mainly arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite those challenges, Natchitoches has continued to flourish having seen many accomplishments throughout the year and looking forward to 2021. Early in 2020, Parc Natchitoches opened to the public providing outdoor recreation for all ages. Although the local league play was cancelled, travel ball tournament hosts booked Parc Natchitoches for tournaments throughout the summer on into November providing a positive economic impact for the community.

Further improvements to the park will continue into 2021 adding pavilions around the walking track and playground equipment as additions to the park. Tournaments are on the books and are scheduled to resume in February 2021. Contractors broke ground along Keyser Avenue as the Hobby Lobby construction project went underway. Anyone can see much progress has been made in recent months and this will be a great addition to the retail business in Natchitoches. Earlier this year, the City entered into a lease with the National Park Service for the use of the Eagle Building at 720 Sixth St., for the storage of archives and artifacts that belong to the National Park Service. The items stored there will be primarily from Cane River Creole National Historical Park.

The Texas and Pacific Depot will be fully renovated and serve as the offices for the National Park Service with an interpretive area for visitors to tour and learn more about the history of Natchitoches and the Cane River area.

Three days after taking office, the City of Natchitoches was hit by Hurricane Laura devastating much of the city and surrounding parish. The City of Natchitoches Utility Department worked tirelessly in the wake of the storm to restore power safely to the residents of the city. Fire, police and public works personnel assisted by clearing roadways of debris and directing traffic in areas heavily damaged. Through this event we communicated with our residents via social media, press releases and phone calls and were thanked for our transparency during this catastrophic event.

Hobby Lobby construction
on Keyser
Avenue as of Dec. 30.
The store is set to
open in March 2021.
McAlister’s Deli and
Whataburger are also
planning to occupy
the site.

Thus far, the City has made technology upgrades to the City Council Chambers and continues to make frequent updates through social media to keep the public informed regarding street closures, project updates and community events. The Phase 3 Street Project was approved by the City Council and rehabilitation work will begin in 2021 on the following streets: Hill, Railroad, Genti, sections of Monroe Drive, Von Orange Lane, Summer Lane, Johnson Lane, Chinquapin Drive and the 500 block of Pavie.

A staff retreat is planned for January 2021 to discuss economic development, the budgeting process, as well as diversity, equality and inclusion across the city. Other areas of focus will be developing an objective system based on GIS for infrastructure improvements, small business retention and expansion programs and developing plans for land use of under-used green spaces in our city.

I also plan to implement a State of the City Address outlining my proposals and policy direction for the City of Natchitoches moving forward. Already, my time in office has been challenging, yet rewarding. There are no two days the same in the City of Natchitoches and I am learning so much from fellow elected officials and the many employees that dedicate much of their time to serving our great city. I never could have imagined in the year 2020 I would be elected as mayor and have the great privilege of serving the citizens of Natchitoches.

For this opportunity, I am truly grateful.

Hurricane debris is currently being removed
within city limits. Richard Osborne, along
with Jon and Ron Shugart, cleared away debris
from a home along Washington Street
Photo courtesy of Jon Shugart