IN THEIR WORDS: Lake Charles mayoral candidates
LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - With the March 20 election days away, we asked the candidates for Lake Charles mayor why they are running and what makes them the best candidate. Sean Ardoin (D), Jesse Bernard (D), Nic Hunter (R), and Joshua Lewis (D) are on the ballot.
For what’s on your ballot, where to vote, and more election news, visit kplctv.com/politics/elections
SEAN ARDOIN (D) – I just celebrated twenty years of marriage to my lovely wife Vanessa. We have two sons and two grandchildren. I graduated from Barbe and then I went on to LSU and got my bachelor’s. While at LSU I marched in the marching band and I was vice president of the student body of 27,000 people, it’s like a small city election. I have been a small business owner for the last 25 plus years. My business is music and recently I’ve created a new genre. I took that genre from infancy all the way to the top of the music industry garnering two Grammy nominations for the album that was representative of the genre. The skills needed to be able to accomplish this in a year are the same skills that I would take to the mayor’s office. I will bring that energy, intensity and intentionality to lobbying, marketing, promoting and running the city, that I did my projects. In the political arena, I’ve been active in the national and state lobbying efforts for the Recording Academy and have been on the regional governing board of the Academy.
JESSE BERNARD (D) – Born and raised in Lake Charles. Moved after 6th grade to Kinder, La where I graduated from high school. Then move back to Lake Charles and attended Delta School of Business and Technology. Where I graduated in Travel and Tourism. Later I took classes for business management and how to build a business. Married my first wife in 2004. She passed just before our 5th anniversary. I would be a single father of four children. Later I married my current wife in 2014. I’ve worked for LaDOTD for 10 years. I was in an accident and broke my femur and would be out of work for a while. The began working for the City of Lake Charles 9 years ago. I have never been in politics. Although I have built three successful businesses and sold them. Now currently building an online distribution and Management company. For me God first then family.
NIC HUNTER (R), incumbent – I was born and raised in Lake Charles. I am a 2002 graduate of St. Louis Catholic High School and a 2007 graduate of McNeese State University with a BA in History. I grew up in the restaurant business and am now the non-managing partner of Villa Harlequin, a downtown restaurant. I also own other real estate investments. I started working when I was twelve years old and started managing my family’s restaurant when I was seventeen. My grandmother, Mrs. Hunter, was the greatest influence on me growing up. Though she is no longer with us, I thank her daily for instilling in me the work ethic and drive that I have carried with me my entire life.
My first elected position was Calcasieu Parish Police Juror in 2011. I was re-elected in 2015 as Police Juror and then successfully ran for mayor in 2017. Throughout my adult life, I have assisted countless non-profits and helped raise millions of dollars for local charities.
My wife, Becky, is an accomplished family law attorney. We have two children, Harrison age 3 and Colette age 1. We have 3 rescue dogs, Boris, Humphrey and Jolene. I love Lake Charles and will raise my family here. Other than being a dad and a husband, the greatest honor of my life has been to be the Mayor of Lake Charles these past four years.
JOSHUA LEWIS (D) – I’m a 36 year old male proud American born and raised here in SWLA my start was a humble beginning my mom was a single mother who did all she could for her children, my father awesome man was a local automobile salesman. I genuinely had the raised by the village effect due to all the love and support from Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Neighbors.
SEAN ARDOIN, (D) – I feel that God put it on my heart to explore running for mayor. Once I decided that I was running, I got in contact with all the people who had previously run. After talking to them, it was obvious that what God had put on my heart was for such a time as this. Since announcing my candidacy, I’ve had folks from every single side of the city and from all walks of life express their extreme pleasure in the fact that I am running and that they now have an option. So, for me, it’s about having the ability to do something and stepping up and asking for the job. I ask that you give me your support and when I win I also asked you to hold me accountable.
JESSE BERNARD (D) – I entered the race for Mayor because I believe I can make a difference. As a employee for the city I see struggles in all areas of the city. Especially with employees struggling to make ends meet. Now we are seeing families separated and no plan to bring them home. Our infrastructure is in bad need of repairs and improvement. You can’t see the devastation through the eyes of a committee. You have to be out there involved with the community. This city has not seen its full potential. It’s time for new beginning. Time for someone with no government ties and will to be of service to the city of Lake Charles. Someone willing to work with others for the betterment of our city.
NIC HUNTER (R), incumbent – These last four years have been some of the most difficult, trying, and yet rewarding of my life. I chose to run for re-election because I am proud of what we have accomplished over the last 4 years. I have a servant’s heart and the mission is not complete. I did not run for mayor for a job. I am very happy I served as a Police Juror before I ran for mayor. The experience and wisdom gained from those years on the Police Jury has proved invaluable.
Being mayor is an incredibly important position. Having the wrong person in office would be catastrophic for Lake Charles at this juncture. Now is not the time to gamble with our future. We need a mayor who has the demeanor, professionalism, vision, and tact to deal with Baton Rouge and Washington DC. As mayor, I have met governors, US presidents, and CEO’s of major corporations. We need to ask ourselves “who do we want as an ambassador for Lake Charles?”
The most important people, however, are the citizens of this City, and I want to be mayor for another 4 years so I can make their lives better, so I can help them recover.
I want to leave the place better for the next generation.
JOSHUA LEWIS (D) – My Aunt Mary Lewis Passed away from Pancreatic Cancer on New Year’s Eve 2020 she was an inspiration what better way to honor her. The big heart I have the tireless dedication to the community I owe it all to her.
SEAN ARDOIN, (D) – I believe Lake Charles is in a unique opportunity to go in a better, more positive direction and I believe Lake Charles is ready for change. As I said in some of my videos, when the pieces are broken is the best time to move them around and I don’t think the City of Lake Charles really wants the same hands putting those pieces back together, because that would yield us the same results and that is the traditional definition of insanity. I have a clear vision for making Lake Charles a destination and not a pass-through. I’m tired of losing to Lafayette and so I’m very interested in bringing businesses here that will keep our citizens shopping, dining, and being entertained here. I want to do things for the city that will help us reach that destination status. Overall, I think it’s just time Lake Charles had someone fight for it like it was personal...and after these two hurricanes and big freeze, it is. I take a proactive approach to everything I do and that is the polar opposite of this administration’s reactive stance. So, if growth and passing the eye test are what you’re looking for, I am your candidate.
JESSE BERNARD (D) – A man that works for the city will work for the city. I have the leadership skills as well as administration skills. I will be able to attract jobs and tourists to our city. Being a employee of the city has allowed me to see through the eyes of the community and not a committee. Also with working with the city I am able to relate with the people in a way that most politicians cannot. I am a man with a vision for our city. Focus on economic development, improving infrastructure, better pay for city workers, and getting our families and friends home. It’s my goal restore honor to being a city official.
NIC HUNTER (R), incumbent – I have the most experience. There is no better experience than first-hand. I communicate weekly with the governor and our Congressional delegation. My office communicates with the Office of the President. Just a couple weeks ago, I visited with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about Lake Charles’ great need. We have the relationships in place. I ask for the chance to bring my remaining projects across the finish line and utilize the groundwork already laid to maximize the recovery.
I have a real record of results as mayor, even with a third of my term affected by a Pandemic and 2 hurricanes. I am not just peddling slogans or catchy, gimmicky sound bites. There is more attention on infrastructure, economic development in underserved areas, lakefront development, economic diversity and quality of life than we have had in recent history.
We have injected ¾ of a million dollars into our parks through a public private partnership called Partners in Parks. Among numerous others, the establishment of a Boys and Girls Club and the refurbishment of McMillan Park, were two of the greatest achievements of Partners in Parks.
We increased money allocated to infrastructure by 40% over the last four years. Money allocated for drainage has increased by 400%.
We announced a multimillion dollar lakefront development project with Port Wonder and Crying Eagle. While paused due to the Pandemic and hurricanes, those projects are still happening. Enterprise Boulevard north of Broad Street is seeing unprecedented growth.
I can build off of this progress.
JOSHUA LEWIS (D) – It’s simple this city is pro dominantly working class people, who should have a leader from working class.
SEAN ARDOIN, (D) – Well, first of all, we have to continue the recovery, which is going to last a good while. But, we cannot be dismayed because recovery will be complete. I think now is the best time to reimagine what we should look like. I would be going after business entities who could come in and help develop the lakefront. I also want to institute an architectural standard so that we can look like a unified city and not just a patchwork quilt. I will go after businesses to bring them here and show them that Lake Charles is a ready City. I want to establish economic development arm of the city specifically dedicated to small businesses so that we can help them open thrive and survive. I also want make the office of Community Development active again so that we can invest in our youth. Overall, I will be concerned with every aspect of this city’s grow and quality of life.
JESSE BERNARD (D) – The city will rebound in the form of more jobs. I have already started working with agencies to get more jobs in our area. Also I have spoken with a few investors interested in building homes or apartments here in our city. My request is that they have to hire the people from our city. This is going to create jobs and homes. We will also improve our communication with the ability to get information out to the citizens of Lake Charles before any other resource. This will help prevent confusion. We will also create resource points that will keep our homeless updated on potential hazards or dangerous weather conditions. We also make sure that jobs are accessible to the homeless as well as everyone else. Our goal is to eradicate homelessness.
NIC HUNTER (R), incumbent – I am proud of the stewardship of this City over the last year. Other cities around the country would have been brought to their knees had they experienced what Lake Charles has in the last 12 months. The Pandemic and hurricanes of 2020 left us in a precarious position. The wrong leadership could have led Lake Charles into financial ruin. Other cities have resorted to drastic options including raising taxes, mass layoffs, going into additional debt, or scaling back public safety, and these cities weren’t affected by 2 hurricanes!
Lake Charles has weathered these storms because of sound, reliable leadership.
After Hurricane Laura, there were many who said we would never get 90% FEMA reimbursement and even more who said we would never get 100%. Thanks to tireless advocacy efforts, we achieved 100% reimbursement for 30 days and 90% for the remainder. We got FEMA to authorize commercial debris pickup, an extraordinary feat.
We will fight for a proper federal response with forthcoming CDBG-DR dollars. These are monies that locals can use to fill the gap between what insurance or FEMA paid and what it will actually cost to rebuild or rehabilitate.
Lakefront development, Acadian Ambulance regional headquarters on Enterprise Boulevard, an upcoming LNG Center for Excellence with McNeese, an international LNG Summit, an upcoming Regional STEM Center with the School Board and McNeese, the US Olympic Boxing Trials and a PGA Tour are just a sample of my accomplishments that will expand our tax base without raising taxes.
JOSHUA LEWIS (D) – Re evaluate everything. Set up priority list what are our pertinent issues and timelines on the road to recovery. Focus on keeping the local money local with all that capital we could look into lowering taxes.
SEAN ARDOIN, (D) – First of all, downtown should be a priority and I think it’s one that we can affect pretty easily in my first 45 days. I want to close the streets down and invite vendors to come and line the streets, have entertainers come and perform so that we can get activity coming to the downtown area. Activity breeds activity and when people start to have the routine of coming down town, they’ll start thinking downtown first, which will then cause businesses to think about moving downtown. Also, there’s 88 - 100,000 people driving through our city every day and they don’t stop. It will be my intention to figure out ways to mine that money and get that tax revenue flowing into our city. I will do this by working with the landowners and potential businesses to get them to locate along I-10 and on those major exits.
JESSE BERNARD (D) – One of my goals would be to make sure that employees of the city receive a better pay increase. Find more ways to get affordable housing in our city. Improve the look of our downtown area. When trying to attract people, the area it needs to look alive. More lights more people interacting. More live events and street cafés. For the businesses that would want to participate in what I call vendors row. Local businesses can bring a tent version of their businesses to the board walk all the way to downtown. They can serve cocktails and food, art and many other things that will highlight their businesses.
NIC HUNTER (R), incumbent – We will continue with lakefront development. The plan is in place. Port Wonder and Crying Eagle will be a catalyst for even more lakefront development.
We will continue to invest in infrastructure. While drainage has been at the forefront of our infrastructure spending, we will need to re-evaluate our capital improvement plan after the recent winter storms. We must clean out the underground drains that were affected by the recent hurricanes.
Economic diversity is key. We have attracted new, exciting tourism events in Lake Charles under my administration and we will continue to do so, especially after the Pandemic subsides a bit more. The economic development districts that we have established will continue to see results.
Our efforts with our youth will continue. My first year in office, I set aside funds specifically for “Juvenile Crime Reduction.” We will expand on partnerships to have the greatest impact possible on our youth. TEEN Connection, Government U, Mayor’s Youth Partnership and Partners in Parks are just a few examples of programming that positively affect our youth.
Quality of life matters. Infrastructure matters, but aesthetics also matter. Partners in Parks will continue to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to enhance public spaces. By connecting the lakefront and downtown Lake Charles, we will continue to attract new citizens and expand our tax base rather than raise taxes.
Most importantly, we will continue to build off of real, tangible results. We will not offer false promises that just sound good during a political campaign.
JOSHUA LEWIS (D) – I want to build relationships deeper relationships with our community. Work hand in hand with law enforcement to help build community and emergency responder relations and possibly lower crime. Est a trolley system to boost tourism and help our local businesses. Build the morale around Mcneese so we can pack the house at the games. Be visible in the schools to boost morale with the youth. Read my plans check em out tell me what you think.
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