Confirming what has long been suspected, Mandeville Councilman Rick Danielson said Tuesday that he will challenge incumbent Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere for his job in the March 2016 election.
Danielson made the announcement Tuesday night before several dozen supporters at a fundraiser at the Lake House restaurant on Mandeville’s lakefront.
In an interview earlier this week, he denied that his candidacy is the result of past conflicts with Villere, but he said he thinks Mandeville needs better leadership and management. He described his own leadership style as “very different” from Villere’s.
Villere has already announced his intention to run for re-election.
“The relationship between the executive and the legislative branches is seriously damaged,” Danielson said, alluding to sometimes angry conflicts between Villere and the City Council.
That damage has been on full display over each of the past two summers, when the mayor’s proposed budget has been picked over by the council during lengthy and at times heated meetings. Danielson’s candidacy, coming just weeks before the budget process begins anew, may exacerbate the tension at those meetings this year.
Danielson, one of the two at-large council members, said he was proud of the work the council has done to improve the budget process by holding summer budget workshops and that he plans to take an active role in the process again this year.
“I will continue to work with the mayor,” he said.
Villere said Danielson’s announcement came as no surprise.
“Rick has been running for mayor for some time now,” Villere said, adding that Danielson’s posturing is what has soured the mayor-council relationship.
“Rick’s been disrespectful at meetings, gaveling me” and limiting his time to speak, Villere said.
Villere said he didn’t see how the budget process this year could be worse than last year’s, but “it’s up to the council.”
Danielson said it was too early to discuss the specifics of his platform but that one issue from his first election in 2012 remains an issue today: flood protection for Old Mandeville.
Danielson has been a proponent of installing rubber valves on the city’s nearly three dozen outflow drains into Lake Pontchartrain, and those valves are now being installed. When the lake rises, either from heavy rain or from storm surge, the drains have allowed water to flow backward into Old Mandeville. The valves will allow water to flow out of the drains but not back into them.
Still, Danielson said, more needs to be done. In the past, he has proposed studying whether temporary gates could be placed atop Mandeville’s seawall ahead of a possible storm surge.
Another issue — the future of the former PreStressed Concrete site in Old Mandeville — is more recent. Recently, the owners of the property held public meetings to discuss a planned development of the 78-acre site. That development could include a hotel, green space, a marina, restaurants and single- and multiple-family residences. Neighbors around the site were skeptical of the potential impact on traffic and drainage.
Danielson said he favors the project, but only if it’s done properly. That includes improving the infrastructure around the site, especially drainage, he said.
Danielson said he won’t begin actively campaigning until after this fall’s statewide elections.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.