Lafayette attorney Josh Guillory acknowledges it wasn't his best move to launch his political career by challenging the re-election of incumbent Congressman Clay Higgins in 2018. But he doesn't regret it.
"I'm glad I did it. I learned a lot," he said recently. "It taught me a lot about politics, policy."
One of the things Guillory learned is that he's more suited for an executive position where he can make decisions and lead from the front, instead of a legislative position.
Today's primaries in the Acadiana area and across Louisiana are chock-full of major issues and races.
Guillory, 36, one of three Republicans in the five-person Oct. 12 race for Lafayette mayor-president, was born and raised in Alexandria and spent a lot of time at his grandparents' home in the small farm town of Echo, where they still used party lines and neighbors eavesdropped on one another's phone calls.
"Four days after I turned 18, I came to Lafayette and I never looked back," he said.
He enlisted in the Army National Guard June 10, 2001, before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and graduated in marketing/business from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2004, the same year he became an officer. The next year, he was deployed to the Middle East with the local 256th Brigade, returning in September, weeks after hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged Louisiana.
Always passionate for history and American civics, Guillory, who was married with children, entered law school at Southern University and worked full time, graduating in 2011. He opened his law office 13 days after passing the bar exam in October 2011. With an office in downtown Lafayette, he mostly practices family law.
"I love adoptions, I love custody cases," he said. "I joined the military because I felt a calling. I practice the areas of law I practice" because it is a service, he says.
More people went in person to cast ballots on the first day than have since early voting began – with the exception of the 2016 presidential c…
When Mayor-President Joel Robideaux announced in April he would not seek reelection, Guillory said he was flooded with calls and emails from people asking him to run. He said yes.
"We need leadership. I bring experience as a business owner and leading troops in battle," he said. "I can make decisions in a nanosecond and I can make thorough decisions objectively and consider all the factors."
The gateway to the city "is looking like trash," Guillory said. The Unified Development Code is overly regulatory. Infrastructure, including drainage and roads, is a mess, he said.
Drainage is atop most everyone's list of needs and Guillory is no exception. There's money in the budget, he said, to do things now, such as projects to detain water, clean coulees and ditches and curb litter, which can hinder drainage. Guillory said all the mayor-president candidates have the same plans for drainage. He said a comprehensive plan looking at flooding from a watershed perspective with five parishes is needed to lower water levels. Lafayette can't just dredge the Vermilion River to ease its own flood problems without working with Vermilion Parish on their need for freshwater for farmers and to prevent salt water intrusion.
One concern Guillory has heard is what to do with the spoil dredged from the Vermilion River. Use it for coastal restoration, he said.
"If we're having a conversation that the only thing holding us back is where do we put the mud that we dig, that is ridiculous," he said. "That's the kind of government bureaucracy that's driving me insane and why I'm running."
Drainage can't be the only thing the mayor-president and councils focus on, Guillory said.
Public safety, including police and fire protection, is one of his priorities. Firefighters and police officers need a raise, Guillory said, but how to fund it? He suggested as new Lafayette Consolidated Government employees are hired, they should be placed on the parochial retirement system, which he believes would save millions of dollars in a few years. That money could cover pay raises, he said. Firefighters, police officers and existing LCG employees would remain in their existing retirement programs.
Guillory also wants to do something about fire protection in unincorporated parts of the parish, where neighboring volunteer fire departments and municipal fire departments are responding to fires outside their jurisdictions. Reminded that residents in municipalities, such as the city of Lafayette, pay taxes so they can have full-time fire departments, while voters in unincorporated areas rejected a tax in 2018 that would have created a fire protection district for themselves, Guillory said the need is there. He believes it can get done without raising taxes.
"I'm not anti-tax," he said. "I'm just tax-as-a-last-resort."
Four of the five candidates for Lafayette mayor-president submitted campaign finance reports as of Thursday in the Oct. 12 election.
If city-parish leaders had demonstrated they had made cuts and exhausted all other means of funding fire protection, Guillory said he believes the 2018 fire protection tax for unincorporated areas would have had a better chance of passing.
Construction of the Interstate 49 Connector through Lafayette is important, Guillory said, but equally important to him is a road project the other mayor-president candidates haven't suggested: Building frontage roads along Interstate 10. He admits it will take at least two four-year terms to get the service roads going, but he wants to start the process. Service roads will spark economic development and create jobs and tax revenue, he said, pointing to the Target retail center on Louisiana Avenue at I-10.
As mayor-president, Guillory said it will be his job to set the tone for economic development in north Lafayette and to make the area inviting. Safety, he said, is a big concern in that area and affects business. Guillory said Walmart left north Lafayette recently because of theft.
"I believe values start at the home and I can't do anything about that as mayor-president except be an example," partner with faith-based groups to help youth stay on the right path and support the police department's neighborhood policing efforts, he said.
The new mayor-president who takes office in January will be tasked with reviewing four proposals submitted in June to redevelop the shuttered Buchanan Street parking garage in downtown Lafayette. Three of the proposals envision a mix of residential and commercial use and the fourth proposes a public-private way to finance repairs to the six-story, 300-space parking garage that was closed a year ago because of safety concerns.
Guillory said his only requirement is the proposal selected must provide at least 300 parking spaces and additional parking for any retail and residential spaces it adds.
While building a new parish jail isn't one of his priorities, Guillory said he hopes people keep calling for a new jail. He'd like to move it out of downtown Lafayette so the jail property can be sold and redeveloped. The general population of inmates at the jail, he said, to the extent that it's legal, can be housed in tents and cots.
"If it's good enough for our service members, it should be good enough for our inmates," Guillory said. "I want to incentivize staying out of jail, not going to jail."
Between April 18 and Aug. 31, Guillory reported $41,047 in cash contributions to his campaign, about the same as the two other Republican candidates in the race but far behind no-party candidate Carlee Alm-LaBar, who reported $301,980 in donations as of Sept. 28.
- Age: 36
- Family: Married to Jamie Arceneaux Guillory with three children
- Home: Lafayette
- Job: Attorney, small business owner
- Party: Republican