The race for mayor of Harahan has drawn two candidates, one with prior political experience on the City Council and the other making her first foray into the political arena.
The election is Nov. 4.
The winner will succeed Mayor Vinny Mosca, who chose not to run again.
Both candidates say they view their life and professional experiences as being what the city of about 9,000 needs to flourish in the coming years.
Eric Chatelain, 37, is a lifelong Harahan resident who has served the past two years on the City Council after winning his first race for elected office.
As a small-business owner, Chatelain said, he has intimate knowledge of Harahan and its problems and how to run the local government in an effective and efficient manner.
Tina Miceli, 49, is a radiation oncology nurse at Touro Infirmary who has never held or run for political office. Nevertheless, she describes herself as a political junkie and said her decades in the health care industry have given her an insight into government and its red tape that others might not have.
“I bring a skill set after 26 years as a professional cancer nurse … that could benefit Harahan,” she said, adding that in her career she has regularly been faced with a lot of bureaucracy, few resources and orders to do more with less.
As the owner of a small electrical company in Harahan, Chatelain said, “I’ve seen what’s going on, and I’ve seen how things are being run.”
He added, “I know what I do in my business and how I balance my budget, and I’ll bring the same work ethic to City Hall.”
An audit found that the city spent more than $5.8 million in 2013 while its budget was $5.4 million.
A key plank in Chatelain’s platform is moving to have the city’s wastewater discharged into the parish sewer system rather than having it treated at Harahan’s own plant. Discussions about that idea are ongoing with Jefferson Parish.
Chatelain said the city’s sewer treatment plant is showing signs of age and it would be too costly to properly repair it. “The average citizen doesn’t understand how bad our sewer system is,” he said.
While he didn’t have an estimate on how much money the city might save if the parish takes over its sewage treatment, he said he believes “we can balance out everything” if that happens. “I think it would be significant (savings).”
Those savings, Chatelain said, need to go toward the police and fire departments, which he said are adequately funded right now but could benefit from additional dollars to keep equipment updated and personnel properly compensated.
Also of concern, he said, would be attracting additional businesses to Harahan to help shore up city government’s bottom line without having to raise taxes for residents, something Chatelain said he would avoid at all costs.
Miceli, who would be the city’s first elected female mayor, said she also wants to foster a more welcoming business environment and would try to make that happen through more transparent government and a balanced budget with no deficit spending.
“If we’re going to attract the right kind of residents and commercial business, we need to show we are financially responsible,” she said.
Part of being more transparent, she said, would be upgrading the city’s website to better highlight city contracts and bids, for example, while bringing government to the people by streaming videos of council meetings. She also wants to launch a community blog for resident input.
She said the city should adopt the Louisiana legislative auditor’s recommendations for best practices in government.
“Harahan is small. It’s not like we’re in the news constantly. We … as a government need to provide citizens with more information. We can do that by utilizing our website,” she said. “I bet that if that budget is published, there’ll be a lot of eyes on it. When things run on rumor and innuendo … it doesn’t instill trust.”
But running a city is more than just putting information online, and Miceli said her professional life has trained her to do what is necessary.
In her career as a nurse at Touro and before that with Ochsner Medical Foundation, she said, she has been in charge of setting up schedules for a 24/7 operation, which includes budgetary issues, and has written hospital policies and procedures, for example.
“I know how to work in a large bureaucratic, political structure, and I’ve been successful,” she said. “I know what it is to take on big projects and get them done in difficult situations.”
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.