Denham Springs City Council elections will end in a Dec. 6 runoff between a challenger who owns a business in the city and an incumbent whose sole term has won him praise from the outgoing mayor but was marred by a drunken driving arrest.
Four of the council’s five at-large seats were filled during November’s election. The final position will go to either party-unaffiliated Julie Dyason-Norris, 55, or Republican Chris Davis, 38.
The two were close in the general election, with Davis edging out Dyason-Norris by a mere 112 votes. However, neither collected enough to win outright.
Both candidates touted their decades of living in the city and their service to the community.
Dyason-Norris, a real estate agent and owner of Romantique, serves on the boards for city Parks and Recreation, Historic Denham Springs and The Landers, a nonprofit organization that serves children.
When he isn’t working as an occupational health and safety manager, Davis serves on the city’s economic development, sewer district and Riverside Economic Development District boards.
As a councilman, Davis said he was proud to help improve city police, fire and water service during a period when Denham Springs’ fire protection rating improved.
At the same time, the city recommitted to funding the nonprofit Livingston Youth and Family Counseling, Davis said. Providing treatment and services for children was important because Denham Springs has higher rates of abuse of young children than elsewhere in the state, the councilman said.
Both candidates spoke of a common concern around Denham Springs: traffic.
Davis said city leaders have to think of growth and infrastructure like a chess game, always staying “10 moves ahead.” As a councilman, he offered his help getting the newly-elected officials caught up to speed.
Dyason-Norris spoke of her own efforts advocating for the Interstate 12 interchange at Juban Road. She said she met with local politicians, the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Department of Transportation and Development bearing maps and urging policymakers to approve the junction.
The first-time politician mentioned several instances in which she sought out private, state and federal money to bring back to the Denham Springs area.
She said she helped with fundraising events to renovate the old city hall, finding state rural development funds to support Train Station Park and asking local politicians for financial backing for the parish Literacy and Technology Center.
She is running without party affiliation but said she believes in a conservative government. Other planks in her platform include communicating with residents more directly, perhaps by broadcasting council meetings; looking into installing a public fishing pier or non-motorized boat launch on the Amite River; and making sure council members carefully research the best uses for the city’s remaining undeveloped plots.
Outgoing Mayor Jimmy Durbin praised Davis for doing his homework, saying the councilman studies the budget, educates himself on issues and speaks to residents about their concerns. Though they are of different parties, Durbin said, the two work together well.
Davis performed community service under court order after pleading no contest to operating a vehicle while intoxicated in 2012, while he was in office. He was sentenced to four days of community service, as well as a six-month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay a fine and fee totaling $1,058.
According to police and court documents, Davis T-boned a car near the intersection of La. 16 and Amite Church Road and fled the scene, laughing and refusing to pull over for a parish deputy.
He initially denied drinking and driving and refused to take a variety of sobriety tests. Eventually, Davis’ blood was collected under warrant and measured a blood alcohol content of 0.15.
Davis publicly apologized after the incident. He recently said since the arrest he has grown spiritually, making him better suited to serve.
Election day is Dec. 6.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.