When Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter entered the office of the mayor of Port Allen in January 2013, no one was expecting that residents of the city would be preparing to rush to polls only 15 months later to elect a mayor.
But Port Allen voters will be doing just that – voting in a candidate for the mayoral seat left vacant after Slaughter’s ousting.
In November 2013, Slaughter was recalled from her position as mayor after 11 months for what many have called a series of bad decisions in her tenure in office.
In December, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal appointed former mayor, Lynn Robertson, to lead the city in the position of interim mayor until an election could be held to elect a mayor to finish the remaining nearly-three years of Slaughter’s four year term. Jindal set the date of the election for April 5.
As early voting is set to begin on Saturday, March 22, the date is nearing when Port Allen voters will, once again, get the opportunity to select the city’s newest leader, as four candidates – Kirby Anderson, Larry Bell, Richard Lee III and Demetric Slaughter – are vying for the position.
The elected mayor will become Port Allen’s sixth mayor since 2011. In June 2011, then-mayor Derek Lewis pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges, vacating the remainder of his term. Councilman and then-mayor pro temp R.J. Loupe was selected as the city’s interim mayor until an election was held, when Roger Bergeron was selected as mayor in December 2011. Bergeron led the city for the remaining one year of Lewis’ original term before Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter was elected and began her tenure in 2013. Slaughter was recalled in November 2013, and Lynn Robertson was appointed to serve as interim mayor – a position she currently holds.
The four candidates contending for the city’s top spot each spoke with The West Side Journal recently and discussed everything from their platforms and campaigns to recent arrests to why voters should (re-)elect them.
Kirby “Mr. A” Anderson, a retired school teacher and main caregiver to his ailing mother, ran for mayor in the 2012 election that saw Slaughter enter into the city’s mayoral office. Anderson received less than 15 percent of the vote.
He worked in the school system for 33 years – most of which he spent as a teacher at Port Allen High School (29 years).
Eldest son of Agnes and the late Curtis Anderson, “Mr. A” said that his family holds a history of serving the Port Allen community, as both his parents were long-time teachers and leaders in the community.
“The Anderson family has been serving people all our lives,” he said. “I really enjoy serving the people and helping people to enhance themselves and become great citizens of Port Allen.”
Anderson said that his ultimate reward from teaching is when former students tell him of the difference he made in their lives, and added that he thought he could help make a difference in the community as mayor.
“Since I’ve been serving people all my life, I would like to continue serving people as the mayor of Port Allen,” he said in an interview Thursday evening.
Anderson said that the bigger issues in the city do not include issues of race relations as some have stated in the recent past, but rather issues of economic substance.
We have good people in Port Allen, and I don’t think it’s a big racial issue here… When we learn to love and respect and do what God said – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – we would learn to get along with people better,” he said. “I don’t see too many issues that the city is facing right now. All we have to do is learn how to work together, love and respect each other. If you work with the councilmen – both parish and city councilmen, as a mayor or just as people, and put our heads together and come up with ideas that would help to generate funds… everything would be fine. We would be able to move forward and stop turning down these businesses to come to Port Allen.”
He said that his desire is for there to be transparency in office, especially dealing with ideas of growth and business.
“You can’t help the industry if everybody’s keeping their ideas to themselves and trying to get self credit for it,” he said.
Anderson said that his past loss in the mayoral race was a true learning experience, and he believes his chances of winning are better this time around.
“I learned that people believe a lot of untrue things. There were a lot of untrue things put out there and the people actually believed it about me,” he said of his campaign more than a year ago. “I think my chances are much better in this election. People are fed up with what happened and what’s going on in the city of Port Allen and they want a change.”
Anderson said that he believes he is the change the city needs.
“I’m going to work with the councilmen, and I’m going to work with all the people of Port Allen. I’m not going to just have an open door policy sitting in office, I’m going to do it as I’ve been doing all my life – get out in the street and find out what the people need,” he said. “Port Allen is already great, but we can always build a greater Port Allen.
If you set goals for yourself… once you think you’ve reached that goal, you’ve got to set another goal. You’ve always got to keep striving.”
Anderson said that he would also like to get closer to surrounding municipalities, which may help the city to strive further.
“Almost all these surrounding cities are striving. And if you can network with the different mayors and other politicians and other successful people to feed off of them… Port Allen can strive even more.”
Larry Bell, owner of Bell View Apartments in Port Allen, said that he thinks his honesty and his ability help people come to compromise make him the right candidate to become mayor of Port Allen.
“I would definitely bring a level conscious to work with the council, to move the city forward,” Bell said in an interview Monday evening. “I can’t bring that “I’m going to get you” attitude…That’s paramount, if I’m so fortunate.”
Bell said that he ran for Port Allen Council in the early ‘80s, losing to Oliver Jones by a mere 60 votes, though La. Secretary of State records cannot confirm the election results. Records do, however, show that Bell lost an election in 1988, garnering 11 percent from eventual winner Councilmember Irvrie Johnson.
“It was a good experience,” Bell said of his past campaign trail. “I just enjoy the campaign trail, getting out and meeting people and socializing.”
He said that when he decided to run mayor, just like when he decided to run for councilmember in the ‘80s, it was because he saw a need.
“If I ran for an office, there was a reason. If I ran against Mr. Williams, it’s because Mr. Williams wasn’t doing his job,” he said. “If he’s is doing his job, I’m going to support him forever. It was never a situation where I just ran just because I wanted that job.”
Bell said that though he hasn’t seen success in the past, he feels he has a chance to win the upcoming election.
“I’d rather feel I have a great chance and be unsuccessful than to feel I have no chance at all and be successful [and unprepared],” he said. “I feel I have a reasonable chance. I’ve been here for a long time, I’ve been a business man since ’04. I think I’ve got a fair number of friends, a fair number of people that respect me.”
Bell, who arrested last week for an outstanding warrant, said that he doesn’t think his arrest will effect his chances of winning the mayor’s job.
“I’ve had a clean record all my life. The article did appear that I was being arrested for animal cruelty, when in essence it was for a court date,” Bell explained. He said that his arrest stemmed from a citation he received after one of his colts escaped. Bell failed to show up to his court date, resulting in a bench warrant being issued for his arrest.
He also faces animal cruelty charges – charges he has not been convicted of - which he says he will fight in court.
An article on WBRZ-TV’s website states that WBR Animal Contol confiscated four of Bell’s horses two weeks ago due to what they deemed unhealthy conditions of the animals. Bell, however, said that he was accused based on the malnourished conditions of one aged horse. He said that he bought the horse for $28, believing that he could nourish it back to good health, but was unable to get the horses weight up because of the animal’s old age.
“I bought that horse in bad shape. It was an aged animal, and it proved to be a much bigger challenge than I realized,” he said.
Bell said that despite his recent law woes, he plans to remain on his campaign trail and hopes to produce good results.
“The first horse out the gate is not always the winner,” he said. “My objective is to bring the people of Port Allen together.”
He said that his goals are to build the city’s economy by creating economic zones, and creating business investments in and out of the state.
“One of my goals is to work out some type of rapport with the businesses here in Port Allen to hire local people,” he said, adding that he also wants to work to support public and private schools in the city as well as support the police department. “I want to do everything possible to assist the police department in keeping the right standards he has under his current leadership.”
He also said that he wanted to allow extensions on utility bills when needed.
“I’m going to come out and seek intelligent input – not a bunch of folks hooting and hollering, accusing this person and that person, because you can’t get nothing done that way,” he said. “If I’m so fortunate, I look forward to coming in and bringing a compromising conscious and to work to move the city forward.”
Richard Lee III, a retired law enforcement officer and lifelong resident of Port Allen, said that he entered the city’s mayoral race simply because he thought he could make a difference.
“I feel that with the leadership and motivational skills that I retained while working in law enforcement for many years will enhance my abilities to successfully move the city forward,” Lee said. “But the main thing is, as a leader, I want to use the mayor’s position to bring the council and the community together in a collaborative effort resolving issues that the city may have so that we can move forward.”
Lee’s grandfather, Richard Lee Sr., bears half the name of the city’s William and Lee Park, as he was a businessman and pillar in the Port Allen community.
“(Richard Lee Sr.) instilled good values in his children, and my father instilled those same values in his children, which I feel I have retained those values and I’m the type of individual that I feel the people want [as a mayor],” Lee said. “Somebody that’s trustworthy, somebody that’s fair, and somebody that’s going to respect the citizens of Port Allen.”
Lee said he believes the city has been “bruised” by administrations in the last few years, but he hopes he can help bring about a healing if elected.
“My thing is to strengthen the partnership between the city council and the community by being visible and listening to the citizens’ concerns,” he said. “My vision is to see the city move in a positive direction so that we can improve the quality of life here in Port Allen and so that we can attract businesses and so forth and get rid of that negative atmosphere we had the past couple of terms.”
He said that he was disappointed in some actions of prior administration, and said that he feels that the immediate issues facing the city going forward are simply to help the council, and the residents of the city, to come together harmoniously.
“This past year I saw all of the stuff that was going on with the mayor and with the city. And they need somebody to come step in and do something positive and bring the city forward and treat the community as one community and not individuals,” Lee said. “What happened in the past is now history. It was an unfortunate situation, but we have to learn that as leaders we learn from these instances and we do not repeat them. I plan to run a positive campaign and once elected I’m going to be positive, be visible, and let the people know that I’m a trustworthy person.”
He said that the work he did in his latter law enforcement years, as a Supervising Lieutenant in the Baton Rouge Police Department, where he retired last year, will transfer well to the administrative role he would hold as Port Allen’s figurehead.
“I spent most of that doing various things in administrative portion of the department in the areas of performance evaluations, employee motivations, budgeting, strategic planning and updating ordinances,” Lee said. “And these are some of the skills and training that you need to run the city.”
Lee said that he knows the mayor’s position is one of great leadership, and said that whomever becomes mayor will have to commit to moving the city in a positive direction.
“I see a city where the citizens want the younger and the future generations to grow and prosper, and that is my vision in order to move forward.”
Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter is the only candidate in the April 5 election that has previously served as the city’s mayor, as it is her remaining term that the election’s winner will hold.
Though she was recalled in November 2013 for actions many residents, and several councilmembers, deemed shady, she said that she entered the race to regain her seat after supporters urged her to run.
“A lot of my constituents came back to me and asked me to get back in the race to complete that four-year term that they elected me in 2012,” she said.
Slaughter said that through what many have called a failed administration, there isn’t many things she would do differently if given the opportunity to serve as mayor again.
“The only thing that I would try and have a different approach in is to continue trying to work with the council and getting the council to work along with me also, even as I have said before,” Slaughter said. “If we could have had LMA (Louisiana Municipal Association) to come in and really just give us the roles, the duties and responsibilities of the mayor as well as the council and just made that known.
“The change came with me coming in saying ‘this is the Lawrason Act, this is the governing body. Let’s run the government according to this Lawrason Act.’”
Slaguhter said that she believes that though her decision to strictly follow the Lawrason Act was an unpopular one, it was the correct decision.
“The Lawrason Act is the governing body for the municipality of Port Allen, and I came in following that. Really the council was not even used to following this government,” she said. “I had ideas brought to the council and I was outright told, ‘we’ve been doing it like this for 30 years.’ That was something that they were not ready to embrace.”
Slaughter holds steadfast to the idea that she was not given a chance in her capacity as mayor, and said she believes she should be given another chance to prove she can, in fact, help the city move forward.
“I want to begin to work on some of the things that I didn’t even have an opportunity to do because I had to fight from day one, when I took office,” she said during an interview Friday afternoon. “I wasn’t given a fair chance for [the council] to even work with me.”
She said that there are still issues within the city that she believes she can help address as mayor, such as activities for youths and crime prevention.
She said that young people have approached her about the fact that they have nothing active to do in the city.
“That’s a cry – that’s a need in the city. This is something that we, as officials, need to be looking at. Going into our precincts and looking to find out what are those needs in our district and begin to work at that,” she said. “But if we’re not going out there to communicate, then we’ll never know what the needs are that the people are requesting.”
Slaughter said that other projects she’d like to pursue as mayor are improvements to downtown and riverfront developments, as well as pay increases for city employees.
She said that despite her obvious shortcomings in the previous administration, she has a heart for the people of Port Allen.
“I stand on being a woman of honesty, integrity and fairness… I have concern for the citizens as a whole – the entire city of Port Allen. Not just looking at one group. That was my thing when I went into office, to get in there and to help all citizens that needed help,” Slaughter said, adding, again, that she simply wants a fair shot at coming back to city hall as mayor. “I feel that I have an opportunity, in spite of the recall, to get back and hold that seat again. It’s just going to be the motivation of getting that support that I had in the previous elections and just to continue to go forward in what I’m doing.”