Tommy Benasco, a cop turned contractor, and David Dunham, owner of a family business, are vying in the March 24 election to represent Slidell's District B, in the southern part of the city that was hard hit by flooding from Hurricane Katrina.

The seat is one of several on the Slidell City Council that will get new faces this year because of terms limits.

Benasco is mounting his second campaign for public office; he ran unsuccessfully for police chief in 2016. Dunham is making his political debut. He runs Gulf States Marble, which was founded by his father. 

Sam Abney, the incumbent, is term-limited.

Tommy Benasco

Benasco said his contractor background has made him familiar with budgets and will prove useful as the city gets ready to spend $100 million in FEMA money on drainage and other repairs.

"This is kind of a last hurrah to fix everything Katrina has done," he said, stressing that Slidell officials need to make sure the work is done at the level that contractors are being paid. "We need to make sure somebody stays on top of it."

City officials also need to make sure that Slidell collects the sales tax on construction supplies used in the massive public works project, he said.

District B has some blighted houses that have not been brought back following Katrina, Benasco said. He would like to see the city reconsider its practice of requiring developers to pay for culverts in front of new homes, which he said makes it not cost-effective to build in Slidell.

"Vacant land brings in almost no amount of city property taxes," he said.

Benasco is active in volunteer work involving children, including the Slidell Boys and Girls Club, and he said some children are going home hungry to face empty refrigerators. He wants to see more programs for youth through the Recreation Department.

A former Slidell police officer who was also a reserve officer after leaving the force, Benasco said he believes police officers are not paid enough but he does not want to raise taxes to pay for raises.

David Dunham

Dunham, who has lived his entire life in the district except for a stint in the military, said the area is neglected and suffering not only from the damage Katrina did to buildings and infrastructure but also because of higher insurance costs.

He said he wants to be a voice for the district. "My biggest concern is that we're forgotten over here," he said. "It used to be a very nice little area. Now it looks like poverty moved in."

Dunham said he has seen his own flood insurance costs skyrocket, even though he has flooded only once. Many homeowners are struggling with that cost, he said, noting that the district has many older residents on fixed incomes. 

The city needs to repair streets in the district, he said, and while the last administration was successful in getting FEMA money, that shouldn't be the only way to get work done. "It seems like we can't fix anything unless there's FEMA money," he said. "Our municipality should be able to fix concrete falling in."

Dunham also sees improving infrastructure as the biggest issue for the city as a whole, saying it's needed to recruit good businesses. "You have to offer something," he said. "You can't say, 'Come to my city that's falling apart.' "

Dunham is also emphasizing the need for beautification, which he said could be addressed by enforcing ordinances that are already on the books.

Residents want to know where their tax dollars are going, he said, and are tired of not seeing results from the money they pay. 

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.