The longtime lead organizer of Together Baton Rouge, Broderick Bagert, is no longer at the helm of the local and often controversial left-leaning group he helped grow over the past decade. He has been replaced by Perry Perkins, who took over from Bagert earlier this month.
The leadership change comes as TBR and its sister organization, Together Louisiana, have come under fire for its criticism of the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program and, more specifically, opposition to ExxonMobil’s requests for tax breaks for investments made in 2017.
Bagert, however, says the shakeup has nothing to do with the controversy over ITEP. Rather, he says, he requested the move more than a year ago in a meeting with Perkins, a longtime community organizer with the Chicago-based Industrial Areas Foundation—with which TBR is affiliated—and who first brought the IAF to Baton Rouge in 2008 at the invitation of several local black pastors.
“The average tenure for a lead organizer in a community organization like this is five to seven years and I’d been here more than nine,” says Bagert. “I told Perry over a year ago that 2018 had to be my last year because it’s just not good for the organization to have the same person at the helm for so long, so we have been preparing for this transition.”
Bagert plans to continue with Together Louisiana, splitting his time between New Orleans, where he will help grow the IAF’s Together New Orleans chapter, and the northern part of the state, where he will work with chapters in Monroe, Shreveport, Alexandria and the Mississippi Delta.
During his nearly decade-long tenure with TBR, Bagert grew the organization to more than 40 members—mostly churches and some special interest groups. Along the way, he helped secure victories for which the organization was able to claim at least partial credit, including passage of a dedicated tax to fund the Capital Area Transit System; increased awareness about issues like food deserts in north Baton Rouge; lack of health care access in underserved neighborhoods; and opposition to the St. George incorporation effort.
But when the group took on the state’s ITEP in 2016, spearheading efforts that ultimately led to statewide reforms, he alienated many in the business community who had previously supported him and TBR’s causes. That fallout continues. As recently as Monday, the prominent First United Methodist Church withdrew its membership from TBR, delivering a serious blow to the organization’s credibility.
Bagert acknowledges he has made some people mad, but maintains that has nothing to do with why he is no longer in Baton Rouge.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with that,” he says. “When you’re in a fight like this, you don’t pull somebody out.”