Gerard Landry needed every one of his votes to win a close race for the Denham Springs mayorship.
With 3,447 ballots cast, only 111 votes separated Landry from his opponent, John Wascom. The eventual winner, with 52 percent of the vote, and his family waited into the night, checking returns on multiple devices and wondering how the race would end.
“Last night was very intense,” he said the following day.
“It drug out to the very last minute.”
Landry, a 61-year-old first-time politician, said he spent the last year and a half preparing for his new role. He met with outgoing mayor Jimmy Durbin for weekly breakfasts on Fridays to discuss city business such as roadwork.
Sounding relieved, the mayor-elect spent the day after the election picking up campaign material, including 350 yard signs. The real work begins Jan. 2, when he assumes office.
Landry’s background is in managing and owning grocery stores. He described the Denham Springs government transition in the language of acquiring a new store.
A new owner would be foolish to clear house and make a lot of changes after acquiring a successful store, he said. Landry expects to spend the beginning of his tenure as mayor learning about the city’s day-to-day operations, and he plans to keep the current staff.
“The city has been running quite well,” he said.
He also said he would look to Durbin and city council members for their advice.
The outgoing mayor listed a number of issues Landry will face in the coming years. As the city continues to grow, he will have to keep pace to provide police and fire protection. Prodigious development could mean the city’s sewage treatment facility may need to be expanded before the end of Landry’s term. Many roads, especially neighborhood streets, are nearing the end of their lives and will need to be rehabilitated.
Lori Lamm-Williams, the only council member guaranteed to return for another term, said the new city government will have to find ways to encourage businesses to move into abandoned property along Florida Avenue to revitalize the area. A zoning issue expected to go to a vote this month could open a new east-west corridor connecting Pete’s Highway and Juban Crossing in the area of Cook Road.
In addition to the new mayor, four council members were elected Tuesday. A field of 12 vied for the city’s five council seats, all of which are at-large positions.
Lamm-Williams retained her seat, and the three successful challengers are familiar faces around the Denham Springs Municipal Building. Rene Delahoussaye and Robert Poole are former council members, while Jeff Wesley was the city’s police chief for 19 years.
Incumbent Chris Davis and challenger Julie Dyason-Norris will square off for the final seat in the Dec. 6 runoff election.