Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere beat back a vigorous challenge from at-large City Councilman Rick Danielson on Saturday, ending a race that was the culmination of years of animosity between the two.
“I’m happy I have an opportunity to serve Mandeville for another four years,” Villere said Saturday night, noting that Mandeville races are usually close.
He said his first priority in his second term of office will be to have a better working relationship with the City Council.
Less than 90 minutes after the polls closed and well before the results had been posted on the Secretary of State’s Office website, Danielson issued a concession statement.
“This is obviously not the outcome we hoped for, but we knew when we launched this campaign last spring that it would be a difficult race,” he said.
When the final numbers came in, Villere had 2,269 votes to Danielson’s 1,859, a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
Danielson’s chances may have been hurt by an ordinance he proposed last year that would have limited areas on the lakefront that could host events.
While many Old Mandeville residents seemed to favor the move, it drew heated opposition from the Mandeville Family Reunion, which hosts an annual event in an area that Danielson’s ordinance would have made off-limits. Opposition to the move gathered on social media, and when the council passed the ordinance, Villere wielded his veto pen for the first time.
It was a rare political misstep for Danielson, but it seemed to dog him throughout the race.
On the other hand, Villere’s recent brush with the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Police, who caught him urinating on a bridge crossover while returning from the south shore, apparently didn’t harm him as much as some speculated it might.
The two fall on opposite sides of several issues, including the proper role of the council, the budget and infrastructure. Complicating those disagreements is a deep personal dislike that has flavored the campaign.
“It’s been very hard working with this mayor,” Danielson said at a forum last month.
“Rick doesn’t understand government,” Villere said.
Almost since Danielson was elected to the council four years ago — Villere took office a year earlier after a special election — the two have been at odds.
Danielson once gaveled a meeting into recess because Villere kept talking beyond his allotted time, and Villere has called Danielson names and accused him of running for mayor long before his official announcement.
Villere accused Danielson of overextending the city by proposing a plan to spend $2 million of city funds to help the parish build an access road between U.S. 190 and La. 1088. The proposed road lies outside the city limits, but Danielson said it would ease traffic problems inside Mandeville.
Villere has called that a misuse of taxpayer funds. He leveled the same accusation against Danielson for a proposal to use public money to upgrade Dalwill Drive, a private road in west Mandeville. The road has traffic and drainage problems, and Danielson argued that the city should accept the road into the city’s system and upgrade it to avoid future problems.
Villere said the owners along the road should pay for the upgrades before the city accepts the road.
The two also have argued about flood protection, budgeting and the proper role of the council in interacting with the administration.
With Danielson’s loss, the complexion of the council and perhaps the nature of the council-administration relationship will change July 1.
Two candidates widely perceived as Villere allies — Carla Buchholz and Jerry Coogan — lost their races. Danielson’s at-large seat will be held by Lauré Sica, a political newcomer.
District 1 incumbent David Ellis cruised to a victory over Coogan, earning 55 percent of the vote.
The District 2 seat also will go to a newcomer, semiretired attorney Michael Pulaski, who won 57 percent of the vote over fellow newcomer Melinda Crawford.
The District 3 race is headed for a runoff. Colorful one-term incumbent Ernest Burguières and challenger John Keller will face off April 9. Burguières had the most votes, 512, with Keller just behind at 505. A third candidate, Jeff Lyons, collected 383. That election will be April 9.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.