Nearly every candidate in races to fill four seats on the West Baton Rouge Parish Council promised to dedicate the next term trying to address the growing traffic issues that have spilled across the Mississippi River bridge from Baton Rouge.
A majority of the council seats have already been filled before the Saturday election in unopposed races in Districts 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8. Those five spots were all taken by incumbents.
It’s certain there will be at least one new face on the council next year since Councilman Randal Mouch was unable to seek re-election in District 1 due to term limits restrictions. The parish’s Home Rule Charter limits councilmen to serving three consecutive four-year terms.
One of the men hoping to replace Mouch is a retiree who served more than 20 years as a councilman for Addis. The other is a 30-year-old carpenter foreman who said he wants to make a difference in the community where he lives.
Wilson “Hook” Cazes, a 67-year-old Addis Democrat, praised Mouch for his service as a parish councilman and said he hopes to simply pick up where Mouch left off.
“I think I can do a little bit more for the people,” Cazes said about his attempt to leave the Addis Town Council for a spot on the Parish Council. “I like helping people. I just want to serve them as good as I think Randal Mouch did.”
Challenger Kirk Allain, also a Democrat from Addis, says that if elected, he will focus on the parish’s traffic issues and several infrastructure needs in the district.
“Addis is growing, and I want to make sure the growth that’s happening is responsible,” Allain said.
District 3 Councilwoman Naomi Fair is hoping a second term in office will give her the opportunity to clean up several overgrown lots and condemned homes in her Brusly-based district. The 64-year-old retiree also wants to clean up a community park that has become littered with trash.
“I think I’ve done more than anyone that has come through the district,” Fair, a Democrat, said about her first term on the council. “I really want to spend the next four years working with someone in the state to try and get some sidewalks installed throughout my community.”
Clayton Hebert, Fair’s Republican challenger, feels too many issues in District 3 have been neglected over the years, like the condemned properties and attending to the needs of the parish’s elderly.
“The woman I’m running against is a nice lady but I think people want someone more proactive,” the 36-year-old real estate agent and truck driver said. “I want to make sure the elderly are equipped with the correct information they need to help get their affairs together.”
Councilman Phil Porto said he wants to spend a third term in District 6, which includes parts of Port Allen and the northern end of the parish, seeing work completed on a five-year project to install a diversion canal along U.S. 190 to alleviate flooding issues for the homes in the area. He also wants to spend time pressuring state and national officials about the traffic problems in the parish, he said.
“We’re constantly meeting with folks in industry and the delegates in Washington to get some help with it,” Porto, a 57-year-old Democrat, said.
Porto’s opponent, Doug Wilkinson, criticized parish leaders for approving “irresponsible zoning” that favors industry over the concerns of residents — something he intends to address if elected.
“I believe people in the district are its lifeblood,” Wilkinson, a 62-year-old no party candidate, said. “People count, not industry. I think that gets lost sometimes when you have been in office awhile.”
Edward Robertson is hoping a third term as the council’s representative for Port Allen-based District 9 will give him the opportunity to address more of the needs of the parish’s senior citizens, especially disabled veterans.
“I did a lot of work for the elderly and youth already but I would like to see them have more,” the 71-year-old Democrat said. “And there are a lot of people who have homes in the parish that need repairs and they need some assistance on that.”
Robertson’s opponent, Elliot Dogan, is a novice to politics, but believes he has made enough connections throughout the community to serve the people of the district.
“I want to bring more money to the district,” said Dogan, a 24-year-old no party candidate. “One of the biggest needs I talked about with constituents is bringing some type of public transportation to West Baton Rouge that would benefit the elderly. And I believe we could fund that through federal grants.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.