For the first time in over a decade, someone other than Bill Borchert will hold the District G seat on the Slidell City Council after this year's elections.
Three people — special education teacher Cindi King, pastor Ray Larry and teacher and coach Glen Sutherland — are hoping to replace the councilman first elected to the seat in 2007 and is now seeking an at-large seat.
The district — bounded by Interstate 12 on the north, Interstate 10 on the east, U.S. 11 on the west and various streets on the south, most notably North Boulevard — is one of Slidell’s most affluent, with one of its major economic drivers being Pinewood Country Club.
That club's success is a major issue for the district, according to the candidates, with some of the other issues they list being public safety, code enforcement and making Slidell a place where young people can stay and build their careers.
The primary is March 24.
King said she is tired of seeing families separated because they can’t find job opportunities in Slidell. “My daughter had to move to Houston to find a job, and my son has to work on the West Bank because there are no economic opportunities for them here,” she said.
But she thinks the city can change that. She said she’d like to see Slidell employ a more analytic, data-driven approach to figuring out its major issues and finding out what the city is doing right and what it’s not.
It’s an approach King said she is familiar with given her background studying psychology and education; she’s spent the last 18 years as a special education teacher at Slidell’s Bonne Ecole Elementary School.
Another priority for King is drainage. She said there’s been a “sectarian” approach to the issue on the council, with members prioritizing their own districts over others, leading to a lack of citywide communication on the issue. She said she’ll try to remedy that if elected.
She also hopes to increase membership and improve Pinewood Country Club, where her husband is the superintendent. But she said she’ll continue that effort mainly in her private life and not through the council, unless necessary.
The No. 1 issue facing both Slidell and District G is public safety, according to Larry, and the senior pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church thinks it’s time for the city to address that.
“We need to make sure our Police Department is adequately funded and has the right equipment to take care of what they need to take care of,” he said.
Larry said he’s the candidate best suited to handle oversight of the city's budget, given that he worked 35 years for the U.S. Treasury Department.
During that time, he served as a national bank examiner, responsible for making reports on banks' risk of failure and then using that information to evaluate the soundness of the nation’s banking system.
As for his 22 years as a pastor, Larry thinks that experience also gives him an advantage. “I’ve got great people skills,” he said.
Larry’s not originally from Slidell. He said he decided to move to St. Tammany Parish more than 25 years ago and then evaluated all the parish before deciding on Slidell as the best place to live. He said he saw Slidell as a “community” then and hopes the city will maintain that feeling.
Sutherland said he has three priorities for Slidell, in this order — code enforcement, public safety and bringing good jobs to the city.
He said the first two issues are intertwined and that only by taking care of those will it be possible to fix the third one.
“If we protect and enhance the quality of life for existing citizens, this quality of life and demand for goods and services represented by prosperous current residents is the absolute best way that we can improve the local jobs picture on our own as a city,” he said.
Though Sutherland hasn’t served in government, he’s not unfamiliar with it. He’s taught government and coached football in St. Tammany for 25 years at Slidell High School, Salmen High School and now Mandeville High School.
He hopes to take the knowledge he has gained as a teacher and coach into office.
“I believe that has provided me with keen insights into community strengths and weaknesses, which will make it easier for me to do job No. 1: improve the quality of life for all the citizens in our district,” he said.