Ben Zahn, Gregory Carroll

Ben Zahn, left; Gregory Carroll

After narrowly missing an outright victory Tuesday, Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn will face Kenner City Councilman Gregory Carroll in a runoff for Kenner mayor on Dec. 10.

Zahn fell just short of a win with 49 percent of the vote, while Carroll, the lone Democrat and lone black candidate in the race, trailed far behind with 22 percent.

They were followed by Republican Kenner City Council members Maria DeFrancesch and Keith Reynaud and independent activist Al Morella.

With the largest war chest and most of the key endorsements, Zahn told voters that his role on the Parish Council in many ways mirrors that of a mayor, considering the power the council has to select contractors and make key fiscal decisions. 

Zahn, 48, said he would use the relationships he has developed on the council to bring more parish money back to Kenner, where he served on the City Council from 2006 to 2012. He also pledged to accelerate improvements to Williams Boulevard and other city thoroughfares to alleviate traffic and beautify the corridors.

Zahn, who owns a decorating business, said he plans to pursue upscale waterfront living options, boutique shops and entertainment venues in Kenner's Laketown district. He also intends to use the city's "planned use development" laws to ensure that Esplanade Mall — a top source of sales tax revenue for the city — is maintained in a way that satisfies the community.

Meanwhile, Carroll, 55, said that during his seven-year tenure on the City Council he has helped keep Kenner a safe and racially diverse community. He pledged to start a city tourism bureau with tax revenue Kenner receives from local hotel occupants.

Kenner now pays the Jefferson Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau to market the city, but that group is also tasked with promoting the unincorporated parts of the expansive parish. Carroll said Kenner would benefit from having its own promotional agency, solely focused on persuading people to visit and conduct business in the city.

An Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office program director, Carroll also said he supports letting city employees earn overtime cutting the grass and performing basic street repairs over hiring outside contractors to handle those types of responsibilities.

Some may consider Carroll's winning a place in the runoff a surprise, given that he waited until the final moments of the qualifying period this summer to sign up for the mayor's race. But Carroll is immensely popular in his council district in south Kenner, and his status as the lone Democrat in the race was expected to appeal to voters looking for an alternative to the Republican candidates in the race.

Zahn and Carroll are hoping to complete the unexpired term of former Mayor Mike Yenni, who became Jefferson Parish president in January. The term ends in 2018.

Councilman Mike Sigur has been serving as interim mayor of Kenner, which is Louisiana's sixth-largest city and has a population of more than 67,000.  

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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