Meet the candidates for City Council District A

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 9:55 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - T.A. Jones and Ronnie Harvey Jr. are running for City Councilman District A and on March 26, one will be elected to fill the position.

Since the passing of Mary Morris last year, the seat for City Council District A is open and there are two candidates hoping to fill the position and represent the district.

District A is a place both T.A. Jones and Ronnie Harvey Jr. have always called home, an area covering downtown, the lakefront and what’s commonly known as North Lake Charles.

“I was born and raised in District A on the corner of Blake and Opelousas. My grandmother and I would get on the bus Saturday mornings and come downtown and shop. So, I know... I feel for District A,” Jones said.

Jones spent 35 years with the Lake Charles Fire Department and retired as Chief of Fire Prevention and he has had a hand in helping write city codes.

“I’m a lifelong resident of District A. I’m a proud product of District A. I currently live, work, and run a business in District A. I’m a lifelong educator for 17 years,” Harvey said.

Harvey is a business owner and currently the principal at Washington Marion High School and was recently awarded principal of the year for the State of Louisiana.

Both candidates are wanting to see their district prosper.

“It was a good community and we need to get back to that. Not saying go back where we were, but get back to the pride that was there in that area,” Jones said.

“I’m just setting out to make a difference in my community. Definitely want to be a voice, trying to commit more of a selfless act, not a selfish act and be the voice of the community to just continue moving us forward.”

When asked to highlight a main issues in the district this was how each responded:

“We need housing. We have people that are not here. We need to find a way to bring them back. And we can do that,” Jones said.

“I think in this situation, ultimately we have to do a better job of educating people on the things we need to get done and how we get them done,” Harvey said.

In addition, 7News asked the candidates a series of questions:

What best qualifies you to be the voice for District A on the Lake Charles City Council?

Jones: “40 years of emergency response and city governmental experiences are the qualities that I possess that are most relevant to the task at hand.

35 of those years I spent engaged in life-saving and life-enhancing efforts with the Lake Charles Fire Department, eventually retiring as the Chief of the Bureau of Fire Prevention.

For the past 5 years, I have worked in the City of Lake Charles Permit and Planning Department, tasked with several roles of code and ordinance development and enforcement along with serving as a commissioner and secretary/treasurer of the Gravity Drainage Board.

These lived experiences have left me with a unique knowledge base and a broad base of established relationships that I will employ on a full-time basis to rebuild District A the right way.”

Harvey: “I wholeheartedly feel that as a homegrown individual in District A and as an intentional resident in the community, I understand the needs and wants of people who reside within it. As an educator, I get an opportunity to see what the forecast holds for the future of the community by the children that we are grooming to be the leaders of tomorrow.

I am a servant-leader who has been involved in our community since my childhood. I have dedicated my whole life to improving our community and serving its residents, and as a result I believe I am the right person at the right time to lead the district.”

What, if any, changes do you believe need to be made in District A, and how to you plan to make those changes?

Jones: “I’ve made my priorities clear from day one of this campaign, and they haven’t shifted to gain the support of special interest groups.

Housing is number one. We must repair what we can and remove what we can’t.

I’ve spent years understanding the impact, and fighting the results, of dilapidated structures.

I have already begun meeting with city, parish, and state officials to ensure strategic alignment with their proposals. As funding flows for both standard operations and disaster recovery, we must ensure affordable, resilient housing is prevalent in Upper Lake Charles.

Once this is done, and our residents return home, businesses will flourish again as we help them take advantage of the various tax incentive programs designed to support them.

Along the way, we will also ensure that our infrastructure is significantly improved. Complete streets and covered ditches will not simply be viewed as cosmetically pleasing but as critical priorities to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents.”

Harvey: “I would love to change the way that we inform and educate the people in District A.

We must start being proactive with potential issues versus being reactive once the issue occurs. My goal is to make District A, a better place to live, learn, work, play, and retire. We can accomplish this feat by educating the constituents on how to accomplish success in each area by effectively communicating and articulating a strategic plan of action while providing actionable feedback to those that decisions affect the most, the people.”

Do you support the finishing of Enterprise Boulevard Extension? If so, how will you support its progress?

Jones: “Yes, I support the Enterprise Boulevard Extension. However, in our current condition, this community must focus on housing first, improving existing infrastructure second, and expanding current businesses third.

Expansion projects must be placed in their proper place.

I believe when provisions are scarce, as they are now, it is critical that our priorities are straight and well funded.”

Harvey: “I absolutely support the finishing of the Enterprise Boulevard Extension for two primary reasons:

First, I am a major supporter of finishing what was started. Leaving the extension incomplete can and will continue to result in wasted tax dollars, and limited economic growth.

Secondly, I support forward progress and creation of businesses and opportunities to spur positive possibilities for those within the community but also for the entire City of Lake Charles.

Thirdly, the completion of this project will be a major boost to the entire city!”

What plans do you have to retain existing families and attract new ones to District A?

Jones: “Housing.

As we repair, remove, and replace housing as necessary, existing families will experience a higher quality of life.

This quality of life will not simply be based on the aesthetics of what they see but the availability of services that they need.

The fact is that businesses and even city budgets are governed by rooftops and blacktops.

The more of them we have, and the higher quality they are, the more resources and services will be afforded to our area.

We must make it clear that Upper Lake Charles is the safest place for the city, corporations, and citizens to invest because it’s high and dry.

The promotion of our corner of this city must be built on a very practical philosophy that resonates with the real concerns of both our current and future residents.”

Harvey: “We must create a marketing plan and branding opportunity for District A.

The notion of “If you build it, they will come” does not fit every category and every community. We must beautify what currently exists in the district, enhance the vision, and market it to those who have a different perception of what the District is and has to offer. We must utilize data.”

What are your specific plans to promote economic growth in District A?

Jones: “Housing.

While there are many programs provided by our city, state, and even federal government agencies, none of them are designed to sustain small businesses.

These programs may assist with starting business or even supporting a business through the tough times such we have seen over the past 24 months, but the only sustainable plan for businesses is a thriving community to support it.

We must surround our local businesses with PEOPLE for them to PROSPER.

This means from Enterprise to the lakeshore, from downtown on Ryan to uptown on Moeling, we must integrate more mixed income housing and neighborhoods designed to create sustainable communities and support commerce.

40 years of experience has taught me there are no quick fixes to doing things the right way. I plan to use my experience, relationship building skills, and available resources to build back a better District A.”

Harvey: “The completion of the Enterprise Boulevard Extension, recruiting of businesses along the I-10 corridor, Nellie Lutcher Cultural District, grant opportunities for affordable housing, and genuine support for local business owners/residents that are already moving this district forward are within my specific plans to promote economic growth within District A, and is within my first 100 day in office when elected.

As an educator, I understand the importance of what education and good education opportunities can do to positively impact a community. As councilman I am going to strongly advocate that we partner with a post-secondary school within the city and create an opportunity for building to be placed inside of District A. This initiative can be a joint venture with the City of Lake Charles and an education agency such as SOWELA, McNeese, or ABC. The city of Lake Charles could help fund a portion of the expenses while seeking grant funding, and industrial sponsorships for the remaining cost. Creating this opportunity will definitely lead to more people, business, and residents entering district A.

Next, we must take advantage of the current attraction magnets we do have like Riverside Park. With the beautiful views and access to the waterways, we could market a variety of people into watersports like kayaking which is becoming very popular and promotes eco-tourism. Lastly, we must form business coalitions, alliances, and networking opportunities to attract and retain those who are willing to invest in our community.

As a councilman, I will ensure job growth, educational and technical programs within our district, and create economic opportunities for infrastructure improvements and new developments. The completion of the Enterprise Boulevard Extension, recruiting of businesses along the I-10 corridor, and genuine support for local business owners/residents that are already moving this district forward.”

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