Why do you want to be an Alderman in Abita Springs? Two main reasons:
Abita Springs is at the crossroads from a financial, economic and cultural perspective. I believe that the town lacks a shared singular vision for the future with no stated mission, goals and/or objectives. In other words no workable blueprint for the leaders and the community to clearly understand what it takes to move it forward with sound open governance. I will bring new leadership, knowledge and skills at this juncture that will provide a bridge working to secure Abita’s future.
Abita Springs’ financial condition is tenuous, unclear and unsafe with large projects, contracts, developments and the day to day operations appear inefficient and ineffective. After closely following, analyzing and monitoring the financial/budgeting operations for past 6 years on my own and without being allowed to “officially “have any input, I can no longer just sit by and not do something to help bring the towns’ financial status and operations to more satisfactory level for future challenges and opportunities.
What three accomplishments in your personal, political, or professional career are you most proud of?
- As serving as the volunteer Chairman and a commissioner on Fire District #8 board, I devised and implemented a long term strategic plan for replacing the Fire District’s vehicles and capital equipment that will likely avoid the need for borrowing nor require raising community taxes for the foreseeable future.
- Within five years after joining the federal government, I was promoted to Senior Contract Specialist authorizing me to sign government contracts of unlimited dollar size.
- Appreciate and value that my three children have grown amazingly well and fully engaged in their communities and careers and are fantastic people in their own right.
What is your vision for Abita Springs at the end of your four year term? What will you do to improve and enhance the quality of life for Abita Springs’ residents, businesses, and visitors?
Vision: Build a bridge to the future while preserving Abita’s identity and quality of life as a unique, financially-sound community, that is safe, prosperous and adaptable to meet the opportunities and challenges that may lie ahead.
Seek & encourage compatible residential and commercial businesses; Establish citizen working groups to address specific issues;
Develop leaders that appreciate and understand sound governance processes, practices and responsibilities in the public sector as separate and different from privately-owned business to build depth and institutional knowledge to govern the town in the future.
List several projects in which you have had significant impact and how you affected the outcome.
- As a federal Senior Contract Specialist, I led a 20 member multi-departmental team including medical professionals, fiscal, engineers, administrators and others in contracting for and establishing a Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Terre Haute, IN.
- As federal Senior Contract Specialist at Dallas, TX, I successfully awarded billions of dollars in contracts for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and other federal agencies over a five year period.
- As Ass’t. V.P. & Branch Manager of a $20M bank, I restored profitability to the branch over a two-year period.
Please rank your top three priorities for this new term and outline your plan for implementing these priorities.
- Reformat the financial statements so that they provide adequate information for purpose of forecasting and control of expenses and sharing it to foster trust in the community.
- I have been challenging the current mayor for the past 5 years to completely change and revamp the Utility Fund model. The two primary reasons follow: One, the present model relies on high commodity prices and extreme temperatures to generate higher revenue for natural gas to offset the underpriced and inadequate water and sewer revenues. It is impossible to accurately estimate future weather patterns and makes the town vulnerable to the patterns that occur in December, January and February. Two, the current natural gas customers are being overcharged in a subsidizing scheme to keep water and sewer charges artificially low. Since only 2/3rds of town residents use natural gas, they are carrying the burden for generating profit on gas.
- Development of an effective realistic Master Plan that encompasses all tangible and intangible aspects of the town. The Planning and Zoning Commission was developed in 1979 and many of the same guidelines are being employed today. This community must realize that vital public areas are a valuable asset that promotes community identity, creates a sense of place, and provides economic development opportunities.
Implementing the above priorities will involve the administration, aldermen, employees and public at-large. Work groups with interest in the particular issues will be invited to join with administration representatives and aldermen to design a work plan to address scope, goals and objectives of each issue then share publically gaining a working consensus to be brought before the council.
What changes, if any, do you support regarding new rules, procedures, or ordinances and why?
- PUDs are generally not based on a detailed community vision for a specific place and seldom produce new development that is integrated with the adjacent community. We must change PUD and Subdivision ordinances to prevent overly dense residential areas that will result in overwhelming traffic problems and faster deterioration of our roads.
- Improve financial reporting. Abita is a $5M operation. We are in the 8th month of the year and we still do not have financial data for the 1st However, the town did produce a 5 month financial statement that has many errors and misclassifications making it almost useless as a document to utilize for projecting next years’ budget.
- Re-make Historic and Planning & Zoning Commissions into a recommending process with approval or decline of requests determined by the Town Council.
- Explore changing the governance model of Abita. Divide the town into equal population districts so the elected aldermen represent specific population areas that they live in thus providing better representation for the residents. Certain number of at-large aldermen may also be appropriate
Other than raising property millage rates, what plans, if any, do you have to increase town revenues in ways that are consistent with economic growth and a healthy, prosperous, livable, and safe community?
- In accordance with a new Master Plan, recruit low impact and small foot print businesses within the town that will generate sales taxes and property taxes.
- We can also improve our revenue by encouraging businesses to locate near Abita and annex them into the town. Abita’s’ agreement with the parish gives us a percentage of tax revenue between the town and I-12 which goes into special funds to be used on roads and drainage.
What changes, if any, will you recommend to the Mayor and other Aldermen that may reduce expenses while maintaining or enhancing the quality of life in Abita Springs?
- Review staffing and contracts job descriptions/work requirements to determine the accurate number of employees/contractors needed to perform services.
- Change the attitude towards expenses; empower employees to look for less expensive ways to meet and serve the needs of governing the town.
Do you have any recommendations for changes or modifications to current zoning and planning laws and decisions that will ensure that as the town grows our cultural and historical significance will not be compromised?
Our conventional zoning fails to plan for future growth or uses and might impact our ability to rebuild our historic center and neighborhood. We need to develop a community vision and perhaps employ what is called “form-based codes” as a way to regulate development that controls building form first and building use second, with the purpose of achieving a particular type of “place” or built environment based on that vision. But Abita has recently found that conventional zoning is not fulfilling this essential goal.
What are your thoughts and plans in the Development of a Master Plan?
An all-encompassing Master Plan is critical to the future of Abita. Perhaps we need to start thinking about how the building relates to the street and landscape as well as what is going on within the building. Many residents are concerned about sprawl and its impact on our health, our pocketbooks, our traffic, and our environment –even though most of the sprawl has been built exactly according to our development regulations. We need to critically look at the ordinances and determine their relevance and applicability through the critical lens of what we all want our Town of Abita to represent to those that come after us, our legacy.
What environmental issues do you consider important to Abita Springs? Environmental issues include:
- The Abita River and its ability to handle water flow through Abita. Flooding can occur from Hwy 435 through to Hwy 59 South and Hwy 59/Hwy 36 West toward Covington. A storm like Hurricane Harvey could isolate Abita and may result in major flooding. Abita needs to have the resilience in the form of liquid assets to be a reliable first responder. Brock Long, FEMA Administrator, has stated that to rely on FEMA to provide resources in an emergency is a major mistake.
- We all want to protect our trees. We must review the current ordinance to ensure that requests for removal are handled correctly.
- Review and determine responsibility for maintenance of tree branches overhanging roads and power lines. This is another aspect of the town’s resilience in recovering after a storm.
- Require making sure people are “building the right way, in the right places
What else would you like to share with voters to help them make their decision?
Several of the answers lead toward inclusion of citizens into the governance process. The goal is to introduce individuals to participate in the hopes that they will continue civic involvement by running for elected office themselves. Development of future leaders is needed to and should be every elected official’s primary goal.