DENHAM SPRINGS — There will be several new faces around Government Drive after next month’s election.
A majority of the Denham Springs City Council is not seeking re-election. Annie Fugler will hand off her position after six years, while Arthur Perkins is stepping down after a tenure that began in 1974. John Wascom is making a bid for mayor.
Ten challengers have joined the two remaining incumbents in a crowded field for the five at-large seats. The candidates gathered Oct. 7 in the Denham Springs High School gym to share their visions for the city.
The main event of the evening was a mayoral candidates forum, but each council hopeful got three minutes to give a stump speech.
Economic issues and the city’s relationship with businesses are a top concern for many in the race.
“Government has its place, but it shouldn’t be over our shoulders,” Republican Scott Kimble said.
Denham Springs has “tremendous business opportunities,” said former police chief Jeff Wesley, a Republican. But growth must be balanced with support services such as utilities, he said.
Many candidates also touted their personal experience in business and development.
Independent former council member Rene Delahoussaye spoke of his four years in office, during which the papers were signed that brought Bass Pro, Albertson’s and Sam’s Club to Denham Springs.
Julie Dyason-Norris, running unaffiliated, spoke of opening her own antiques store in town and working with a group of residents to establish the Juban Crossing development.
If elected, Republican Brian Ross said, he would support a diverse economy, as “out of control” and “unmanaged” development can push out mom-and-pop stores.
Both incumbents seeking re-election spoke of the council’s recent public safety record. Lori Lamm-Williams and Chris Davis, both Republicans, noted investments in the Fire Department and the city’s Class 2 fire protection rating, which affects property insurance.
Daniel Landry, the sole Democrat in the field, spoke of his time overseeing finances for the East Baton Rouge school system and said he wants his 26 grandchildren to be as proud of Denham Springs as he is.
Republican Keith Stark also spoke of his dedication to children as a Scout leader of 16 years. He promised to collaborate with the rest of the council to address issues such as drainage and the protection of animals at the city shelter.
Former councilman Robert Poole, a Republican, also identified the shelter as an important issue. He said that while he was not opposed to the way it is run, the shelter has “heavy-handed” leadership.
Johnny Little, running unaffiliated, has experience working for the city as well, as an 11-year employee of the water department. Denham Springs needs to pay off its utilities debt, he said, and he wants to give favorable utility rates to veterans. He also vowed to protect the elderly and disabled by not raising rates unnecessarily.
Republican Lonnie Shupe said he’s worked a variety of white- and blue-collar jobs and managed hundreds of employees. He moved to Denham Springs “many years ago” when he became a single parent because he thought the city offered the best home for his family.
“I care about the community and I care about the people,” he said.
Election Day is Nov. 4. Early voting is Tuesday through Oct. 28.