Two lifelong residents of District A in Covington are running to become the next City Council member representing the area.
Peter Lewis, an insurance agency owner, and Keitisha Young, a manager at a housewares store, are running for the seat being vacated by John Callahan, who is term-limited.
Both Lewis and Young said building a community center in the district would be a priority if elected. They both frequented the former Covington Recreation Department facility that was within walking distance of their childhood homes, and they agree that today's children need the same opportunity for wholesome and constructive after-school activities within walking distance of their homes.
Lewis and Young, both Democrats, said they would strive for greater transparency in city government and would ensure District A receives proper funding for lighting, sidewalks, ditch cleaning and the like.
Lewis is endorsed by the St. Tammany Parish Democratic Committee. Young has been endorsed by the West St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce's Political Action Committee and the Alliance for Good Government.
District A is in the north-central part of Covington. It takes in the West 30s neighborhood, whose population is largely African-American and lower-income.
Covington's municipal elections will be held March 30. Early voting continues daily through March 23.
Lewis said when he was a boy, kids in his neighborhood walked to the recreation department building that once was located at the St. Tammany Parish Fairgrounds on Columbia Street. He laments that children living in District A today don’t have the same opportunity, with the city’s recreation department now off Ronald Reagan Highway.
“They can’t walk there,” Lewis said. “There’s no sidewalk to get there, and you can’t ride a bike there. Also, there are a lot of elderly people in my district that don’t have transportation.”
If elected, Lewis would work to bring a community center to the district, which he said would not only give area youth someplace to go and something to do after school, but it also would be a place they could receive positive mentoring.
Lewis has worked for years as a mentor to local children, he said, and he believes that a lack of positive role models can cause anger and violence, not unlike that seen in District A last month when two shootings occurred during daylight hours. A 19-year-old man was arrested in one of the shootings.
Lewis said Pineview Elementary School and Covington High, both in District A, are overcrowded and that he wants to work with the School Board to create more classroom space at those schools. He said trash and blighted housing are a problem in the district, and street lamps, roadways and more need more attention.
“I see the other areas of Covington making changes, but District A doesn’t because no one is speaking up,” he said. “My campaign slogan is ‘A Voice in Your Absence for Change.’ I will be available for people to send me their problems and I’ll take them to the city.
"If I’m elected I’ll have at least quarterly meetings. We’ll write the problems down and go to the council and present them. We can get some brainstorming going — see what’s working in other districts. We need to work together to make one great city.”
Young also is a firm believer that children in District A need healthy places to gather and things to do. She said building a community center in the district is a top priority.
“You need after-school recreation, studying, tutoring,” she said. “Kids emulate what they see, and the only thing they see is the courthouse and the jailhouse right down the street.”
Young said the nearby Boys & Girls Club on Columbia Street is a good facility but kids have to pay a fee to go there.
“A community center wouldn’t just be for kids in this district; it would be for everyone,” Young said. “But this district is a great place to put it. The district intertwines with the others. It would help all of our kids.”
Young said blighted housing has to be addressed in District A, and she said “slum lords” are a part of the problem.
“We have people paying $500, $600 for rent and they’re living in a house with holes in the floor and it’s infested by rodents. It’s a big problem, and it’s throughout the district. … We need homeownership education in our area. People have to know what their rights are and not be afraid to speak up about the housing they’re living in.”
Young advocates for stronger home inspections and holding landlords accountable for their properties. Still, she acknowledged the city will have to “tread lightly” when dealing with the issue.
“We can’t put people on the streets when houses are being renovated and we don’t want landlords to increase the price of rent,” she said. “But when you’re paying rent, your house should be in livable condition already.”
Young said she too wants to make sure District A is “getting the funding it should” when it comes to sidewalk and street repairs, as well as general cleanup.
“Things are getting cleaned up by the city, but it’s not getting done here in our district … The new mayor and council … have a responsibility to one another. We need to talk about all of it and see what we can do.”
PERSONAL: 41, born in Covington.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Covington High School; bachelor's degrees in general management and human resources/business management from Southeastern Louisiana University.
PROFESSIONAL: Insurance agent, owns agency in Covington.
POLITICAL AFFILIATION: Democrat, first run for political office.
MORE INFORMATION: pglewix2215.wixsite.com/districta
PERSONAL: 43, born in Covington.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Covington High; studied business at Howard University in Washington, D.C.; working toward a degree at Southern New Hampshire University.
PROFESSIONAL: Department manager at local home goods store.
POLITICAL AFFILIATION: Democrat, first run for political office. Appointed to Covington Board of Adjustments by Councilman John Callahan.
MORE INFORMATION: Facebook page, Keitisha Young City Council District A