What’s in a name?
Quite a lot, if you ask Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel.
Durel, who leaves office in January after three terms, has long bemoaned the president title, saying he is forever explaining what he actually does.
The concept of mayor, he said, is much easier to grasp.
On Nov. 21, voters will decide whether to go along with his suggestion to amend the city-parish charter to formally change the title of the position from “president” to “mayor-president.”
A second proposed charter amendment would expand membership of the City-Parish Planning and Zoning Commission from five to seven members.
Neither proposal has attracted much attention.
Durel said the issue of his title has bothered him since he stepped into the job 12 years ago.
“You say city-parish president, and no one knows what that is,” Durel said. “It’s just a never-ending conversation. They hear the word mayor, and it gives them a point of reference.”
In Louisiana, the president title is more closely associated with parish government than city government, and the city-parish president title was created when Lafayette’s once separate city and parish governments consolidated in 1996.
Durel notes that the top government executive in East Baton Rouge Parish, which also has a consolidated form of government, is referred to as mayor-president.
“I’ve been referring to myself as the mayor for 12 years. It’s just too much trouble,” Durel said.
City-Parish President-elect Joel Robideaux, who takes office in January, is not as concerned.
“Joel is indifferent as to the possible name change. His primary focus is addressing the needs of the parish,” said Corey Meaux, who is working on Robideaux’s transition team.
Durel said the proposed charter amendment to expand membership on the Planning and Zoning Commission from five to seven is intended to address what he said has been an issue of having enough members to reach the legal quorum required to do business.
A five-member commission needs a quorum of three members to meet, and a seven-member commission would need a quorum of four, which might be easier to get with a larger overall commission.
At least one Planning and Zoning Commission member said the difficulty of rounding up enough members to do business is no longer a problem and that he opposes the change.
“I have served since 2011, and I can’t recall ever not having a quorum,” Commissioner Bruce Conque said.
Conque said expanding the membership would raise the number of appointments drawn from unincorporated areas of the parish from two to three, which could be problematic for zoning issues because zoning applies only in the city, yet there would be three “folks not in the city telling us what to do.”
In other local elections on Nov. 21, voters will decide whether to renew a School Board property tax and will settle runoffs for three City-Parish Council races, the Lafayette Parish sheriff and state House District 45.