George Long Candidate Bio


 

Why do you want to be Mayor?

I’m a very future-oriented person.  So I’m very excited by the opportunity to be directly involved in the creation and adoption of our master plan that will have a direct impact on our quality of life for decades to come.  I believe this is a turning point for our town.

 

The job will offer me the opportunity to express my love and compassion for people as well as my skills as an administrator.  I enjoy working with people one on one and in small groups.  I think I’m a good listener and problem solver.  And I can be a good person to have around in a crisis.

 

I have a long list of ideas that I’m ready to share.  And, during the two-year master plan process, I will encourage everyone to share their hopes and dreams so we can stretch and reach for more of our potential.  I’m encouraged by what I see as an awakening of consciousness of sorts here in our community in response to the recent challenges we’ve faced together as a town.

 

What three accomplishments in your political, personal, or business career are you most proud of?

I’ve run a successful business since 1990.  It has offered me a wide range of opportunities to learn and grow as a photographer and a businessman.  I’ve mentored many photographers over the years and served as a leader in the photographic community, including having served three times as President of the Gulf South chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers, President of the New Orleans Photo Alliance, and I currently serve as an Advisory Board member of both the Photo Alliance and Photo NOLA.

 

When Katrina hit, I was again President of our ASMP chapter.  I worked hard to help our 80 members know that the organization could be of support as needed.  Some really needed the help.  I stayed in communication with them at a time when communication systems had failed.  The International Photographic Council and ASMP jointly presented me with their Leadership Award at a ceremony at the United Nations to honor me for my efforts. That was a proud moment for me.

 

I’m glad that I’ve done the tough, personal, inner work of acceptance and forgiveness of myself and others in my life.  As a consequence, it has allowed me to be there for others in a way that I find very fulfilling.  I try to life a life of peace and grace.  My spirituality is the most important thing in my life.  It makes me a better man, partner, and citizen.

 

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?

-My vision for four years from now is that we will have offered hope to our citizens by having created a master plan that brings clarity to the road ahead and protects our quality of life. Also:

-Any problems with Planning & Zoning will be history.

-Customer service at Town Hall will be humming along nicely.

-We will have created more opportunities for small businesses with the help of an Abita Business Alliance and the innovative thinking that come of it.

-Town Hall will have a better public reputation by having communicated and worked assertively with the parish and state on a variety of issues affecting us.

-Our monthly town e-newsletter will keep us engaged in the community and well-informed.

-Our new emergency notification system will help us to know that our town government cares about our safety and well-being.

-Because our population will have increased by 32%, traffic will continue to be an area of concern.

-Government systems we would depend upon for road construction move slowly.

-New retail space at Harrison and Hwy 59 will begin to take shape. That intersection will become the front door to Abita for those traveling up from I-12 or on Harrison from Covington.

-Construction of a Claiborne Hill grocery on that corner by the Acquistapace family will just be getting underway.

-Unattractive, unplanned growth will continue along Hwy. 59 toward I-12.

-Talks with the school board will continue regarding purchase of the Middle School to become our new Town Hall.  When completed, Main Street will curve along the Park behind the current rear school parking lot and connect with Hwy. 36, making way for ample parking and a vital historic town center.  Working together, our innovative plans and ideas will create something very special here.

 

These are just a few of my goals.

 

Several projects in which you have had significant impact and how you affected the outcome.

As V-P of the Trailhead Museum Board of Directors, here’s what I’ve done over the last few years.  The impact is fairly obvious.

Designed and led installation with CLECO of the totem or Spirit Stick in Abita Springs Park

Created and led a ceremony with the local VFW chapter and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise via telephone to raise a new American flag in the Park that had flown over the U.S. Capitol building

Initiated a fence mural project along the Trace to be completed by end of year

Served as administrator and parade boss of three Push Mow parades.

Initiated a project to install a bathroom inside the Museum

Initiated a project to renovate the town’s historical marker near the Middle School along Hwy. 36

Brought Louisiana Poet Laureate Jack Bedell to the Museum for a reading

Oversaw installation of a TV antenna so we can watch the Saints games in the Museum.  Who dat!

Initiated and oversaw installation of a new audio/video system in the Museum that allows the space to be used by groups for meetings, screenings, and other events.

Initiated the installation of the Historic District weather station, KLAABITA4, which is available 24 hours online at WeatherUnderground.com.

Installed speakers outside the Museum bringing music to the Park, especially during our Farmers Market.

Oversaw installation of a bulletin board and water fountains at the trailhead.

Worked with Bryan Gowland and WWOZ to facilitate live coverage of two Busker Festivals.

Created all Facebook social media content for several years for the Whole Town Garage Sale, En Plein Air, Push Mow, La. Bicycle Festival, and the Busker Festival.

Created and maintained TrailheadMuseum.org and all of its content.

Beyond my work for the Museum, here is more:

I’ve attended most council meetings in the last two years or more but I need to be attending Planning & Zoning and Historic Commission meetings as well.

Coordinated all Abita Springs calendar listings with media and the St. Tammany Tourism Commission for several years.

Worked regularly with town employees and volunteers to fix problems with drainage, street repairs, trash pickup, and facilities maintenance.

Cleaned and prepped the Park before all major events

Joined Ryan Murphy and Ron Blitch in meeting with the developers of Abita Meadows to convince them to be more considerate of the ‘Abita style’ in the design of their homes that will be facing Harrison Extension.  This is still in process.

Joined the mayor and others in the initial discussion with Villavaso regarding his bid for our business, which is the development of the master plan.

For several years now, I have kept an eye on the trailhead area nearly weekly, reporting problems, picking up trash, repairing what I can. I have a good rapport with all the town workers I’ve met and worked with.

 

Rank your top three priorities and outline your plan for implementing them.
  1. I will oversee the 2-year process of creating the master plan.Hopefully this will be in process by January 1, 2019 and my job will be to see that it goes smoothly with maximum input from the public.

 

  1. I will work with lead engineer Andre Monnot to see to it that our $6 million sewer repair project continues on time and under budget.

 

  1. I will oversee the revisions to our PUD ordinance and other planning and zoning issues.Again, this will require a serious effort from our new Aldermen and input from the public.

 

What changes do you support regarding new rules, procedures, or ordinances and why?

The PUD moratorium being considered by the current Aldermen is a necessity if we are going to preserve our quality of life.  The impact of increased population on roads, traffic, and schools will be an ongoing challenge.  The moratorium will allow us the time to revise the ordinance fairly and with greater clarity and vision.

 

I have a lot of other ideas in process that I look forward to sharing once a consensus is formed.  I don’t want to push my agenda until there is support from citizens and Aldermen.

 

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?

One practical thing I’m doing is getting advice from mayors of other towns who have similar goals.  Next week, I will be speaking with a Senior Policy Advisor of Smart Growth America, who was mayor of Meridian, Mississippi for 16 years.  Let’s learn from the best.

 

Also, we need a better understanding of what the intended economic impact is from the parish’s ‘New Directions 2026’ plan and learn how we can take better advantage of the wealth of knowledge and understanding it holds.

 

The St. Tammany Regional Airport is less than four miles from the roundabout.  The parish is pursuing plans with the FAA to expand the runway to accommodate corporate jets.  The Slidell airport and New Orleans International have no room to expand but our airport does.  Maybe we should discuss the possibility of annexing it with the parish, or at least more of Hwy. 36 frontage leading to it.  The parish probably won’t go for it but if we don’t get ahead of issues like this, it could have a profound impact on our quality of life.  Like it or not, we will continue to grow at an estimated 8% annually compared to 0.7% nationally.

 

What is your position regarding the proposal for hydraulic fracturing in St. Tammany Parish?  What actions have you taken?  What other environmental issues do you consider important for Abita Springs?

I have actually spent a significant amount of time and energy over the last 30 years attempting to understand our relationship with water.  My attitude is similar to that of the Native Americans.  Water is sacred.  To puncture our aquifer for any reason other than to start a water well is a mistake, in my opinion.  I understand full well the relative safety of the fracking process.  And the amount of undesirable substances used in its process that would taint our water supply is relatively small compared to the amount of water in the aquifer.  But I still think it’s wrong and unnecessary.  The wars of the future are being fought over access to clean water.

 

Something I’ve not heard others discuss is just how long we can reasonably expect the Southern Hills aquifer to supply us with our water. The reduction during the last few decades is not insignificant.  Most of it is taken out near Baton Rouge.  We will need more complete information in order to be prepared for this.

 

And while we’re on the subject of drinking water.  It’s my understanding that we have three chlorine injection points in our supply system and that the closer you live to them, the more chlorine you’re going to get.  If that’s the case, it’s not good.  We would need to figure out a better way.

 

We’ve got to stay vigilant in protecting our trees.  They are one of our greatest assets.  Soon after I moved into my current home, I planted three live oaks and three cypress trees.  They add tremendously to the look of my home.  I planted one tree in particular, the live oak on the corner of Level and Cypress, with the clear intention of helping it to become a substantial, special presence in our community.  I feel a kinship with it.

 

I’m very concerned for the trees that will be planted in Abita Meadows.  It was recently clear cut.  The new trees could be seriously stressed in that distorted environment.  I will work on this.

 

What else would you like to share with voters to help them make their decision?

I’ve been a passionate and devoted volunteer to the Park and the Town for the last several years and I look forward to the opportunity to do even more as mayor.  My heart and soul are all in.  I hope that what we are able to accomplish together will help everyone feel safe and cared for.  Let’s treat ourselves and each other with dignity.

 

I want to create good, effective offices at Town Hall with people in them who care and are having fun by being of service.

 

We need a major overhaul of the way the town communicates with residents and other government entities.  I believe I am well-suited for that task.

 

I want us to find ways to live up to our reputation as a fun, inventive, and entertaining place to live with a great quality of life.  It needs to be walkable, safe, and inviting.

 

There’s so much more I’d like to share but I hope this is enough for now.  I came into this knowing it would be a fascinating adventure.  Thank you for caring enough to ask these thoughtful questions.