The changing face of municipal politics
Quick! Think of the names of four fictional mayors. I’ll do the same. (No, there aren’t any other rules. Just select your make-believe characters from books, movies, song or any other medium.)
Where should we start? How about Mayor McCheese? (Where else, right?) Neither human nor a burger, McCheese was the municipal CEO of McDonaldland from 1971 to 1985, according to Nick Greene, the editor-at-large for MentalFloss.com.
“Because he is a politician, there naturally was a scandal involved,” Greene wrote, referencing a copyright infringement issue that sidelined the use of the McCheese vehicle for many years.
Then there’s Springfield Mayor Joe Quimby, a personal favorite on “The Simpson’s.” If you’re unfamiliar with Quimby, think Ted Kennedy at his fighting weight and Edwin Edwards when he was single. Then exaggerate those stereotypes until you feel ridiculous—just like Quimby, who said during a (cartoon) town hall meeting, ”I propose that I use what’s left of the town treasury to move to a more prosperous town and run for mayor. And, er, once elected, I will send for the rest of you.”
There are also the literary mayors of Munchkin City and the Shire. Like their aforementioned counterparts from McDonaldland and Springfield, these mayors are super duper fake. (Or, as our friends and family in Jefferson Parish and other locales are fond of saying, “That’s fake news, bruh.”)
Quick! (One more time.) Think of the names of four real mayors from Louisiana. (You can pull your personalities from any village, town or city. The mayors can even be dead, alive, in office, retired or in prison.) Take your time.
(I’m assuming you’re playing this go around. Are you? Because I have some questions.) Was your hometown mayor on the list? Is he or she running for re-election this fall?
If so, who are the other candidates who have qualified? Or do you have an open seat in your backyard, or perhaps no race at all? You’re not being graded or tested. And if you know more about fictional mayors from pop culture than you do about mayors from Louisiana, don’t worry. (Nobody’s gonna make fun of you here.)
But, as your podnuh from Port Allen, I do want you to know that the fall election cycle will host important mayoral races in Alexandria, Broussard, Crowley, Minden and Shreveport, to name a few. Elsewhere in the Bayou State, there are at least 11 other competitive mayoral races (not counting the snoozers) unfolding in a town near you, or maybe in your town. That unofficial tally includes a half dozen or so first-term mayors who are looking to build legacies via re-election, and a couple of interim mayors begging voters for full-time jobs.
Now, the thing about those fictional mayors—McCheese and Quimby and the rest—is that they’ll always be where they are right now. The books, movies, toys, television shows and commercials of those bygone eras will be there waiting for you, whenever you’re ready. Thus, your engagement is not required in a timely fashion.
Our most veteran mayors, by contrast, are disappearing faster than anthropomorphized hamburgers. (Or it just seems that way.) Mitch Landrieu recently turned his focus away from New Orleans politics and toward the national stage. Randy Roach also detached from the public rolls in Lake Charles and Kip Holden left behind Baton Rouge’s top municipal office.
When viewed in conjunction with the incoming wave of new and second-term mayors, what we’re witnessing is part of the changing face of Louisiana’s municipal landscape.
It’s also the fullest municipal election cycle since the state Supreme Court cemented the right of convicted felons to run for office. The courts and Legislature had a little back and forth on the matter, but the robes and gavels won out—as did ex-felons. (That’s why there are three races with ex-felons who are likewise ex-mayors.)
Naturally, former Ball Mayor Roy Hebron wants his old job back. (He’ll have to explain why he took the rap for FEMA-related fraud.) Former Jonesboro Mayor Leslie Thompson is crafting a comeback story, too. (Will it include a chapter on his guilty verdict for misdirecting city benefits?) Not to be left out, former Waterproof Mayor Bobby Higginbotham is another politico running for redemption (and trying to outrun convictions related to town credit card charges).
The two highest-profile elections are taking place in northwest and central Louisiana. In Shreveport, the race to replace the city’s first black woman mayor has reached an early boiling point. As unpredictable as she is controversial, Mayor Ollie Tyler is seeking re-election with nine opponents and plenty of problems brewing. Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy, meanwhile, is stepping down while paving the way for new history to be made.
Regardless of who’s successful in November, due to the candidates who qualified, Alexandria will elect either its first minority mayor or its first female mayor.
And just to be clear: Mayors McCheese and Quimby will NOT be on your ballots this fall. They almost didn’t make it into this column, either, but sometimes you have to be sneakier than the Hamburglar to make municipal politics interesting. (Does anyone, in the name of all things holy and purple, know what the heck Grimace was supposed to be?)