Speaks on reapportionment and his life of public service
Juanice Gray | Editor
After almost 44 years of service to the public, Louie Bernard will be hanging his work blazer up for a final time at the end of his current term as State Senator.
While it is still a year and a half away, Bernard says he’s making this retirement announcement now so anyone wanting to run for his seat can set a campaign in motion. Another reason, “The public deserves that much time to choose their candidate.”
Upon completion of his senate term, Bernard will have served 16 years with the Natchitoches Parish Police Jury, 24 years as Clerk of Court and four as senator. “There simply are no words to convey the gratitude I feel for having been given this opportunity. As a former Jaycee, I have always believed our creed, that ‘service to humanity is the best work of life.’”
Bernard has encountered many situations during his career, but one sticks out. “When I was with the Police Jury, the Jury wanted me to go out and talk about a half cent sales tax. They had the sheriff (Norm Fletcher) to go out and talk about a half cent sales tax for a new jail. So I was talking about roads and bridges and he was talking about a jail. And for my part of the program I stressed capital outlay. We needed a capital outlay program for people to know what’s going to be done and to hold us accountable for doing it,” he said. “Up on the lake there one time, when we finished with that and an old man came afterwards and said, ‘Son, you done real good. You gave a good talk, but let me tell you something. These people out here don’t care nothing about laying out no money at the capital. We want our money spent on roads and bridges!’ (laughs) I waited for him to laugh or smile and I realized then he was serious. I took capital outlay out of my speech from then on!”
Bernard then got to the genesis of his term in the senate. “We had reapportionment coming up and everybody wanted to make sure that lines weren’t moved south or in another direction,” he said. His goal was keeping the City of Natchitoches, the parish and surrounding parishes together. “We wanted to keep the nucleus of the parishes together and we did that.”
He said it was unfortunate that the parish lost Kenny Cox’s district. He said those in charge of reapportionment looked at moving the districts where the numbers were low and the legislator was term limited. “Kenny’s district, unfortunately, was that district.”
He spoke about the give and take of losing some areas while gaining others.
Bernard touched on the subject of GUMBO funding for rural broadband. The governor announced Tuesday that the state will receive $176.7 million through the American Rescue Plan for broadband. “The entire focus of the Legislature has been on broadband. It’s universal. Everybody knows we have to do it. It was a five or six year project and everybody wants to finish beforehand,” he said.
“I’m optimistic our parish will get better than our fair share of funding because we have so many dark areas blighted by no broadband. Those are the priorities they’re wanting to consider.”
Bernard said when he first arrived in Baton Rouge as a senator, “It absolutely was” what he expected. He had been in the legislature to lobby for items relating to the Clerk of Court’s office. “I knew the procedures and processes. I wish sometimes there were more people willing to just sit down at the table with me and I say what I think and then them tell me what they think…and agree to disagree and come to a consensus,” he said.
Bernard said he has one main driver for retirement, “Grandchildren. Grandchildren are the dessert of life and I’m amazed at how much time I can’t give to them because of my schedule.” He said he’s blessed with being healthy and deems it the perfect time to enjoy retirement and focus on his family.
He said he looks forward to working with whomever succeeds him and reminds the public he is in office until the fall of 2023. He won’t be slacking off, rather he still has items on his political agenda to achieve. “I will keep my promise to listen to your views on the wide range of problems our state faces and I will call you back!” he said. “My heart is full for that which I have been given by the finest people in our entire state.”
The old adage of once a public servant, always a public servant is true for Bernard. “You don’t ever step away completely. Retirement will give me the opportunity to make some more choices and realign my priorities. I’ll never tire of serving the public.”