For the past eight years, New Orleans' District A has been represented by a mover and shaker in city politics.
City Councilwoman Susan Guidry took the lead in pushing through a series of criminal justice reforms, becoming a pugnacious proponent for limiting the size of the city's jail. As chairwoman of the council's Criminal Justice Committee, she led a push to eliminate bail for most people charged with nonviolent crimes at the city's Municipal Court.
Guidry's impending departure — she is term-limited and declined to seek an at-large seat on the council — has created a vacancy for the district that covers Carrollton, Hollygrove, Lakeview, City Park, Gert Town, Lakewood, parts of Mid-City and the university area of Uptown.
The half-dozen candidates vying to succeed Guidry in Saturday's election are aware of the shoes they're trying to fill. But they have different ideas for moving the district forward at a time when drainage, infrastructure and short-term rentals seem to have surpassed perennial worries like crime.
Joseph 'Joe' Giarrusso III
Giarrusso parlayed name recognition — his grandfather served as police superintendent of New Orleans and a longtime city councilman — and an early kickoff to his campaign to become the front-runner in fundraising. An attorney and Lakeview resident, he said his goal is "to restore people's faith and confidence in how government works for them."
He has called the district's streets "a national disgrace" and vowed to address the city's decaying sewer and water systems.
"From top to bottom in the district, I think you have thoughtful, engaged, educated people who want somebody who will represent reasonable thoughtfulness and outspokenness at the same time," Giarrusso said.
Giarrusso points to his experience serving on the Lakeview Civic Improvement Association and the Lakeview Crime Prevention District. "It's given me a lot of credibility," he said.
He called the expansion of short-term rentals "antithetical to preserving neighborhoods and keeping prices lower" for renters and homeowners.
If elected, Giarrusso said, he wants to serve on the council's budget and public works committees.
"It may sound very fundamental, but we ought to be having (a) conversation with the Sewerage & Water Board and Public Works to assess and verify the status of our infrastructure on a regular basis — more frequently than just before hurricane season," he said.
Hardy is an Army veteran, one of many hats he's worn in his adult life. He moved to New Orleans in 1999 from Atlanta and has since worked as a real estate agent and as the administrative director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.
Hardy said he is concerned the city is still not adequately protected against powerful hurricanes and storm surge. "We still don't have a vision for how to create a more sustainable drainage system," he said.
Hardy said his life's work is to develop buildings and communities. He founded a nonprofit called CORE USA, which according to its Facebook page focuses on "helping consumers and businesses to improve the environmental, economic, cultural and social conditions of the households and communities they live and work in."
"I believe I'm uniquely positioned to be able to bring people together and focus on helping the historically neglected, alleviating poverty and building the economy," Hardy said.
"I've been mentored by a lot of pillars in the New Orleans community. I understand things a lot differently than my colleagues who are running."
Aylin Acikalin Maklansky
Maklansky views herself as a problem solver, and she lists her years in public service among her most important qualifications. An environmental lawyer, she previously worked as an intelligence analyst with the Department of Defense and as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, in Washington, D.C.
She also served recently as legislative director for Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, of District C, a position that afforded her a front-row seat on the inner workings of city government.
"We're losing a lot of institutional knowledge (this election season), and we're going to have a whole new political scene," Maklansky said. "I know the system, and how to get results."
If elected, Maklansky said she would seek to focus police resources on crime "hot spots" and to fix the many potholes in the district. She opposes privatizing the beleaguered Sewerage & Water Board, which she proposes placing under the "direct oversight authority" of the City Council.
"There is a sense that we're not getting basic services from the city," Maklansky said. "We really need to look at new leadership, people who are in it for the right reasons and are not beholden to generations of politicians."
Daniel 'Dan' Ring
A Boston native, Ring describes himself as a "community guy." He's called for more community policing in the city's neighborhoods and doing away with the changes required by the New Orleans Police Department's consent decree.
He said during a recent candidate forum that he's been canvassing the district every day talking to voters. He said city contracts should be "more equitably distributed," adding that he would focus on services for youth if elected.
"My main reason for running is I feel there's a disconnect between the city government and the people," he said.
Ring, who lives in Mid-City, works as a buyer for a food service company and previously has managed restaurants and call centers. He said he has managed political campaigns in Boston and the San Diego area, where he used to live.
Ward is running his second campaign for the District A seat, portraying himself as a reformer who would "rip the government apart and rebuild it from scratch."
For starters, he said he'd push to overhaul the city's strong-mayor system and eliminate "independent, unelected boards, which create a situation where we have a lack of accountability and transparency." He's called those entities "fiefdoms" and declared that the Sewerage & Water Board "should not exist."
A linguist, Ward spent several years living overseas, including a stint in Germany, an experience he said opened his eyes to what infrastructure "is supposed to look like."
"That's pretty much what ruined me, I guess," Ward quipped. "I've lived somewhere where all the things we're told we can't do here are actually done."
An Army veteran, Ward said he never intends to pursue higher office and just wants "to live in a city that's not screwed up."
He said he knows the district's issues better than his opponents, adding that he was talking about — and documenting — drainage concerns for years before the Aug. 5 flooding thrust them into the forefront of public attention.
Washington-Kendrick is running on a platform of radical change, saying at a recent forum that she would push to end the requirements of the NOPD's federal consent decree. "That's a lot of money we could use and allocate elsewhere," she said.
A first-time candidate, Washington-Kendrick said she launched her campaign because of dwindling "upward mobility" for everyday New Orleanians, who she said increasingly "are getting pushed out of the city" because of rising housing costs. Her motto has been to provide a "voice to the voiceless."
"Change needs to start now," she said, "and there's a sense of urgency."
Washington-Kendrick is an Army veteran and an assistant principal in Mid-City. She worked in education for 20 years, a job she said has prepared her for managing the city's budget. "The qualifications are wanting change and knowing how to impart or make that change," she said.
If elected, Washington-Kendrick said she would ensure that street lighting is improved — a measure she said would reduce crime.