DENHAM SPRINGS -- Mayor Gerard Landry was elected to a second term Tuesday, giving him the opportunity to continue helping Denham Springs recover from the Great Flood of 2016 and plan for its long-term future.

Landry collected 2,398 votes, or 82.9 percent, to finish ahead of challenger Tom Berry, who got 494 votes, or 17 percent, according to complete but unofficial returns from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Unofficial results for the City Council, to fill five seats, were: Laura Schmitt Smith, 1,954; Jeff Wesley, 1,952; Robert Poole, 1,884; Lori Lamm-Williams, 1,867; Amber Dugas, 1,787; and Ray Riley, 1,359.

Wesley, Poole, Lamm-Williams and Smith were seeking re-election. Dugas will be joining them after her first bid for a council seat. 

Smith unofficially won her first full term on the City Council after being elected last year to fill out the term of Councilman Chris Davis, who resigned when he took a job in Mississippi.

Both Dugas and Riley ran last year to fill Davis’ remaining term. Riley advanced to a runoff with Smith.

Councilman Rene Delahoussaye chose not to seek re-election.

“Now, the next four years, the real work begins,” Landry said, as he begins his second term in office.

Among those items are the fate of the flooded City Hall, the temporary City Hall in the Historic District and revitalizing Spring Park, he said.

Drainage was the most talked about topic by the mayoral and council candidates, but other areas drew attention, including helping residents recover from the flood, long-term projects and economic development.

Landry said some city residents still are working to repair homes and the city must balance allowing them time and dealing with blighted properties.

While the city is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on recovery of damage to its buildings and equipment, officials are also helping residents who may choose to not rebuild.

The federal Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program offers residents who have flooded twice a chance to sell their property and relocate, with their home being demolished. No home will be built in the future.

Smith also pointed out the agreement the city reached with Gravity Drainage District No. 1 to regularly clean canals.

Several council candidates touted reaching out to city residents, being receptive and learning what concerns they have and how the city can address them.

“We are open officials. We have phone numbers people can call to reach us,” Lamm-Williams said.

Wesley who served as city police chief before retiring and being elected to the council, said he would like to look at streaming the council meetings on social media.

“It’s very important. The younger generation is using technology to get information and us older folks have to learn to adapt,” he said

 

The City Council must show leadership, two candidates have said,

Riley said being a supervisor with the East Baton Rouge Parish school system taught him leadership skills, while Dugas, owner of the Taste of Louisiana Café in the Historic District, said business owners already serve the public.

“People come in and talk and you are a sounding board,” Dugas said.

The creation of Denham Strong and its long-term plan for the city came from asking residents what they wanted to see in the city, Landry said.

“It may take 10, 15, 20 years” to complete some of the projects due to their complexity, he said, but the benefits will extend many generations forward.

Economic development of the Florida Boulevard corridor lies ahead for the City Council, Wesley has said.

While recent development has centered closer to Interstate 12, Florida Boulevard could become a prime area to bring in business, he said.

“We have to make an area more people will come to, and Denham Springs has potential,” he said.

The revitalization of the Springs and Spring Park is important, he said, along with helping the Farmer’s Market.

These attractions would not only serve city residents, but would attract tourists, in addition to the Antique District.

Denham Springs can help economic development by reviewing its policies for development to make sure it is not too hard for businesses to start or for residents to locate here, Wesley said.

Variances from zoning and building codes have been regular items on the City Council agenda recently, prompting members to question if it is time to update the city codes.

“We’re finding a need to update our zoning and building codes to meet the changing trends,” Wesley said. “We need to find what better serves the people who want to move in.” 

Balancing economic and residential growth and needs will challenge the council.

“We have to help the economy grow and be pro-development, but we need a good balance of residential growth and business growth,” Smith said at a candidate forum.

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