WALKER – Livingston Parish Council District 6 will send a new member to the council after Jeff Averett chose not to run again.
Dereck Babcock, Muriel Laws, and Steve McDaniel took part in the Chamber of Commerce’s Parish Council Candidate Forum on Monday at Wholly Grounds Coffeehouse in Walker.
A fourth candidate, Gerald McMorris, was not present.
Babcock said he supports a single parish wide drainage district overseen by a board made up of a representative from each district. Drainage is not a simple problem, he said, pointing out that 1,600 miles of drainage in the parish fall under the state.
“We all experienced the 2016 flood, that was almost four years ago,” Laws said. “Something has to be done.” The parish budget should be reviewed to see that funds can be used, she said.
“We need a parish wide drainage system,” McDaniel said. Cleaning ditches and dredging the Amite River needs to be done, he said.
Why this job
“The next councilman for District 6 needs to have the time to serve,” Babcock said, time to attend committee meetings, go out at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. and answer a constituent’s call.
“I am self-employed," he said, and has experience working with state legislators and members of the area legislative delegation.
Laws said she also has the time – “I am retired, a 30-year retired federal worker. I bring 30 years of knowledge and experience."
Laws said she has managed millions of dollars for the Department of Justice, Veterans Affairs, and Environmental Protection Agency.
“I care about this parish,” McDaniel said, having lived here since he was 4 years old. “I want to do good for everybody,” he added.
Self-employed, McDaniel said he started his first company at age 19 and would bring that business experience to the council.
On the issue of animal control, Babcock said he is familiar since people always seem to drop off dogs near his home.
“We absolutely need,” animal control, he said, but “How do we get it done?”
Working with local shelters and animal groups could provide ideas, he said, even asking the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Livingston program if it would try such a project.
Laws suggested a partnership with schools and working with local animal organizations.
“Animal control, you’ve got to have it,” McDaniel said, recounting how a neighborhood boy was almost attacked by several dogs.
You’ve got to educate the people,” he added, while working with shelters.
Littering is a huge issue according to Laws.
“It is connected with drainage,” she said, since litter finds its way into the drainage system.
Promoting recycling is one option, she said, as litter “will be one of my highest priorities on the council.”
McDaniel said Louisiana should copy other states, such as Alabama and Mississippi, and have inmates pick up litter.
Babcock agreed grass clippings or a child’s ball can affect drainage and strict litter law enforcement is needed.
People are concerned about drainage, Babcock said.
“We need someone on the council with a plan to address the need and has the experience to go work with state officials, state agencies, and elected officials,” he said.
Laws said in walking District 6 she discovered most people did not know who their council member was.
“My plan is to initiate a communication bridge immediately,” she said, holding town halls every 6 months or annually to “bring the council to the people.”
Drainage is the top concern of residents, McDaniel said, and just as important is they need information.
“We need better maps,” he said, after trying to find map that clearly marked the council districts.
Babcock quoted a business mentor as saying financial problems are “not a lack of resources, but a lack of resourcefulness.”
“You learn to use the things around you. When the public knows we are resourceful, they will trust us, he said. “It takes money to run government and people need to know we are handing that money carefully.”
“People need to see a tangible return on their taxes, Laws said.
“You have to have pubic trust. If they don’t see it, they won’t invest in it.”
Nobody likes to hear it, but taxes are needed to keep things going, McDaniel said.
“It takes a majority to vote in a tax. People need our trust.”