In an election cycle that has many open seats on the Slidell City Council because of term limits, a veteran council member who has been in office since 2002 is running against a political newcomer for the District F seat.
Kim Harbison, who is term-limited in her present at-large seat, is no stranger to District F. She represented that district from 2002 to 2009, when she ran for an at-large seat left vacant by the death of Kevin Kingston. She was then elected to two full terms in the at-large seat and is now seeking to return to District F.
Lance Grant, who teaches science at Slidell High School, said he was inspired to make his first run for office in part by Jay Newcomb, the current District F council member, who is term-limited. Newcomb also teaches at Slidell High.
Grant said he'd been talking to Newcomb about a potential run for a couple of years. "He put out a little Facebook thing that said people want to complain, but they don't want to do anything," Grant said. When he told Newcomb he had seen it, his fellow teacher said it wasn't aimed at him. "But it pushed me," he said.
Grant said he wants to see the city's money spent wisely. For example, he questioned the amount of money spent on a bathroom renovation at Slidell's Heritage Park, saying that it cost nearly $300,000. "That's a lot of money to spend on a bathroom," he said.
Residents in District F are concerned about drainage and streets, he said. But business owners consistently complain about the difficulties they encounter with city sign regulations. He's also concerned that new regulations in Olde Towne might deter businesses from opening there. "We need to be more business-friendly," he said.
He wants to see more efforts made to prepare young people for high-tech jobs, possibly by working with groups like the Slidell Boys and Girls Club. He's also concerned about school security and advocates putting police school resource officers in elementary schools as well as high schools and middle schools.
Grant touts his background in science and engineering, saying it would help him to ask good questions.
Harbison is campaigning on her depth of experience as a council member. The longtime councilwoman said she decided to "come back home" to the District F seat in part because Slidell is still dealing with repairs from Hurricane Katrina that she hopes will be finished in the next four years.
"I feel like there's going to be a lot of changes (on the council), of course, and we need some stability to not lose any ground," she said.
Some parts of the district flood, she said, like Wimbledon Estates and parts of Audubon. Those issues are being addressed "little by little," she said, and constituents keep a close eye on the W-14 drainage canal, calling when it needs to be "detangled" of obstructions.
She's also looking at areas where streets have subsurface issues and culverts need to be replaced.
Harbison prides herself on being accessible, responding quickly to calls from constituents and usually doing so in person.
"I think I bring an impact of being on the council right now," she said. "There's no learning curve. I'm not having to get myself acquainted with how to do things, and knowing the things we can do."
Harbison said she also wants to focus on economic development and finding new clean industries for Slidell, with a focus on the medical and technology sectors. "We've got to be able to keep our children here," she said.