Leesville mayoral candidates debate Ft. Polk, economy and infrastructure
LEESVILLE, La. (KALB) - Ahead of the March 26 election, mayoral candidates in Leesville participated in their first mayoral forum, hosted by the American Legion Post 145 and coordinated by Vernon Parish Democrats.
Incumbent Mayor Rick Allen, an Independent, and Louis “Lou Lou” Hopkins, a Democrat, are the two candidates vying for the mayoral seat. Allen is currently in his second term, after being re-elected in 2018, earning 68% of the vote.
Candidates had the opportunity to answer questions about claims they have each made during the course of their campaigns.
One of the main issues the candidates focused on was Ft. Polk’s impact on the Leesville economy. Allen emphasized the military base is “the key to keeping this community going,” while Hopkins argued Leesville needs to focus on Leesville, not Ft. Polk.
“Don’t get me wrong about Ft. Polk,” said Hopkins. “Ft. Polk got a $600 million budget out there. We should be using Ft. Polk to build Leesville, not using funds from Leesville to build Ft. Polk. They have money. Ft. Polk can do anything they want to do. Why are we spending money out there? They probably got loads of money. We need to be using some of that money over here.”
“We do not pay Ft. Polk anything,” responded Allen. “Ft. Polk pays the City of Leesville $3.2 million. And we have the largest inter-governmental service agreement in the world right here at Leesville.”
The candidates also took up the issue of job creation. News Channel 5 asked both candidates how they would create more jobs for Leesville as mayor.
Here is how Hopkins responded:
“I’ll open up the community development office. They’ll get with the chamber of commerce. You’ve got to include the business people. Can’t nobody open a job but the business person. So, you include the business people then you draw a plan. Just like a 10-year plan. You draw up a 10-year plan, and you work on it. You go out and recruit. You get with the state of Louisiana economic development and let them help recruit people to help them come in.”
Here is how Allen responded:
“The City of Leesville has never seen growth like it has right now. If you can’t look around Leesville and see that the city has grown, something is wrong. We have added more businesses. We are currently in line for the Whataburger coming. As soon as they finish the one in Alexandria, they’ll be here to build that. Harbor Freight is opening a brand new facility here in Leesville. There are several doctors’ offices under construction currently. Leesville is growing. And we’re just so blessed to have Ft. Polk here and to be connected with them that allows us to get national attention.”
Hopkins also took up two issues he had regarding Allen’s service, including where infrastructure dollars are going and whether Allen can legally serve as mayor.
Hopkins said infrastructure money needs to be directed to road repairs from the recently passed federal infrastructure act, which includes $1.9 million. He also claimed the state gave everybody money but Leesville.
Here’s how Allen responded:
“The infrastructure money given to the state is divvied out to cities and towns based upon the population of that city and of that town. The City of Leesville is in line to receive $2.1 million from the infrastructure package, which is specifically earmarked to be spent on water and sewer only. You cannot spend it on anything else, period.”
Lastly, Hopkins claimed Allen should not be allowed to hold the mayoral seat, saying Allen lives in Anacoco, not Leesville. When News Channel 5 asked Allen about that claim, he said he lives in District 1 and those claims are “a ploy.”
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