Lane Grigsby is someone who needs no introduction. Why bother. You’ll hear him coming from a Baton Rouge traffic jam away.
This is a man with as many opinions as dollars in the bank. And, shocking to no one, he has problem zero hurling his Benjamins like Mardi Gras doubloons to further each and every one of his myriad points of view.
Let me just say it: I find Lane Grigsby to be absolutely fabulous.
Do I agree with all of his positions? No. Does he know the word “finesse” even exists in the political arena? Probably not.
Let’s just put it this way: Once Grigsby starts charging on something he cares about—or someone has convinced him to care about—it’s like the running of the Lanes in Pamplona. Good luck slowing him down.
More power to him.
Yes, Grigsby is more aggressive than a blitzing linebacker. No doubt he often shoots before aiming. And sure, every punch he or one of his political action committees uncorks is of the knockout variety.
But here’s the thing: Lane Grigsby believes passionately in the things he cares about and, as importantly, is willing to pour his heart, soul and bank account into each and every fight that he wages.
Set aside whether you agree with all, some or none of his views. He deserves applause for no other reason than having the guts to very publicly stand up for his beliefs. It’s for that very reason that Mary Olive Pierson also holds a seat in my personal pantheon of admiration. Both are bulldogs who play to win.
Frankly, Grigsby is a candid breath of “I don’t give a damn” fresh air in a city stifled by too many of its supposed movers and shakers lacking the guts to utter a public word of actual substance.
Oh sure, you’ll hear some mighty bold talk in the privacy of the City Club’s bar and grill, but here in the real world, pretty much each and every one of them cowers in silence.
Challenge one of these bastions of self-importance and you typically get one of two responses: “I can’t speak up. I’ve got to work in this town,” or, “I prefer to operate behind the scenes.”
Really? How’s that working out for making Baton Rouge a better place to live, work and play?
Compare that to when Grigsby and Jim Bernhard—then running the Shaw Group—decided one term of Bobby Simpson as mayor was more than enough for Baton Rouge. Most claim their outrage stemmed from Simpson’s deep tunnel sewer plan and the administration’s blatant attempts to reward certain engineer friends, but those who were involved will never forget a meeting when Bernhard told Simpson the entire “Anybody but Bobby” campaign would end if he would answer one question: “Name one thing you’ve done to make Baton Rouge a better place to live?”
Not liking the response, the attacks continued, paving the way for Democrat Kip Holden to become Baton Rouge’s first African American mayor.
That, my friends, is effecting change.
Grigsby currently finds himself in the crosshairs of public shame for having the audacity to acknowledge offering to support Republican Franklin Foil for a future political race if the term-limited House member would quit a briefly messy state Senate District 16 runoff.
So what? I dare anyone to find a single politically right-leaning person in that district who thought two split-the-vote Republicans squaring off against a Democrat in the runoff was a good idea. Yet there was the suddenly pious Dan Claitor, telling anyone who would listen he never brought the offer to Foil, fearing some phantom violation of the law. (I wonder how many votes Claitor traded or quid pro quos he was engaged in during his days in the state Senate?)
Grigsby’s only mistake in the whole affair was making a sarcastic remark about being a “kingmaker” to Business Report‘s Stephanie Riegel and having it appear in print.
The incident, in the rough and tumble world of Louisiana politics, was barely a blip on the radar of indignation. That, of course, didn’t stop those who’ve been on the receiving end of some of Grigsby’s salvos from feigning outrage. Not since the discovery of gambling at Rick’s Café Americain has there been such shock.
If you want some truly shocking information on Grigsby, do some investigating into the man’s philanthropic endeavors. Those don’t get nearly the attention as his political crusades.
During a six-year period beginning in 2012, his Boo Grigsby Foundation collectively gave away some $12 million to more than 100 organizations operating in East Baton Rouge and neighboring parishes. Keep in mind that figure does not include personal donations. Many of these nonprofits and organizations would hardly be considered “conservative” and scores of them operate almost exclusively in disadvantaged pockets of Baton Rouge. Moreover, hundreds of at-risk children have been on the receiving end of full-ride scholarships courtesy of Grigsby’s generosity.
The truth Grigsby’s critics don’t want you to know is that the man spends far more on community-improving philanthropy than he does political causes. Then again, Grigsby, who pretty much has yet to meet a topic he won’t debate, shies from talking about his nonpolitical giving.
One of the many reasons why I find Grigsby so fascinating is that he doesn’t need to do either the politics or the philanthropy. He’s a self-made man who built a company from nothing into a $500 million a year industrial contracting giant. He’s since sold the company and I’m sure could be quite happy spending every day doing little more than hunting, fishing and playing with his grandchildren.
He doesn’t because he cares about Baton Rouge and Louisiana.
Many might wish he cared less and simply faded into retirement, but that hardly sounds like Lane Grigsby. The guy I know is a fighter who doesn’t much care what the rest of us think.
He’s a man of his convictions and, agree with him or not, there’s nobility in that.