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Monday, July 26, 2021

Moving Bossier City FORWARD

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Mayor Chandler Hits the Ground Running

Tommy Chandler believes in assembling a good team, rolling up his sleeves and putting in a full day’s work. That’s the attitude that made him a successful businessman, and it’s the approach he is taking to his new position as Bossier City’s mayor.

“I got elected March 20,” Chandler said. “March 21 is the day I started working,” Chandler said. “We went to Baton Rouge two or three times and had a one-on-one with the governor. One of the things we discussed was the Jimmie Davis Bridge. We had $24 million already, and he gave us another $100 million. We’re going to build another Jimmie Davis Bridge.”

For the Chandlers, it’s a family tradition. “My mom always taught me to treat people like you want to be treated,” he said. “Every time you came in her house, she was always making sure somebody was comfortable. One time, my sister-in-law, when she first married my brother, she was going to test my momma out. Momma goes, ‘You want anything to eat?’ She goes, ‘Yeah, I’d like a T-bone steak.’ My momma went out to the freezer, picked it up, thawed it out and started cooking it.

“My dad always said if you want something in life, you’ve got to work for it. He taught all of my family members to work. I want to work as hard as I did in my campaign the whole time I am mayor.”

Tommy Chandler, 61, was born and raised in the Shreveport-Bossier City area. He graduated from Shreve Christian Academy, now Evangel, before attending Louisiana Tech and Harding University in Searcy, Ark.

“When we first moved here back in 1962, in ’64, I-20 was coming through Shreveport and Bossier,” he said. “My father did the majority of the demolition between those cities for them to go through there.”

Chandler worked with his father, Lou Chandler Sr., and his brothers in demolition, remodeling and even moved a few houses.

“My first house was a house that was located on Youree Drive at the old LBT Bank,” he said. “We moved it out to the north side of Cross Lake. It’s pretty neat to pick up a whole house and take it down the road.”

It was no easy feat, either, as he recalled. “We had to take it all the way up to Blanchard,” he said. “There were overpasses where the train tacks are. So we had to go all the way up to Blanchard and come back around and come down Lakeshore.”

Growing up, Chandler never considered straying far from home or the family business. But he did not grow up with a desire for public service.

“I wanted to play football,” he said. “When Bo Harris was a pro, I used to practice with him over at Fair Park on hot summer afternoons after I had worked all day long. Him and Pat Tilley and some other professional guys, we’d practice at Fair Park. I always looked up to him. Bo is still a dear friend of mine.”

Chandler did not follow Harris onto the gridiron. After work for his father at H&W Wrecking, he started his own company, T.H. Chandler Enterprises, in the early 1990s. The company sells rustic wood furnishings and home decor.

Chandler said the connections he made through the years in business were part of what led him into local government.

“I’ve always had friends in politics,” he said.

“Not only judges, but a lot of our business dealt with politicians on demolition jobs and things that we’d do. I just slowly have been doing this for 20 or 30 years and finally saw the opportunity and took it.”

The decision to run met with some resistance within Chandler’s inner circle.

“My oldest brother, my best friend and my wife didn’t want me to run,” he said. “They thought I was going to make a fool of myself.”

It was Matt Kay, who went on to become Chandler’s campaign manager, who saw things differently.

“I saw a guy who was very personable,” Kay said. “It seemed like he knew everybody. He was willing to get up and put his feet on the ground and start working all day every day. Whenever you have someone who’s willing to work, 24/7 if they have to, who is willing to go shake a hand, never meets a stranger, you have somebody who’s really good at public service.”

Chandler said that was the motivation he needed to throw his hat into the ring.

“I sat down with him one day and asked him if he’d be my campaign manager,” Chandler said. “After two weeks, we had another meeting, and he said, ‘Hey, I think you have a chance.’ We started working, and we worked seven days a week. I’d wake up, and he’d be in my driveway right at daylight, and it would go to 10 or 11 o’clock, even midnight.

“He even held me out until 4 o’clock in the morning one night, which I really didn’t like. But he did anyway. We put out signs. We could have waited until the next day, because it already was the next day. But it was something he wanted to do. He kept me going.”

Chandler took one step before hiring Kay, who continues to guide him as mayor.

“I gave it to God months ago,” he said.

“Even before Matt, I gave it to God and said, ‘God, if you want me to do this, let me do this, if I win or lose.’ I already had a business. I was still doing well. But I found a desire to help Bossier City, and He’s led me every day since then.”

After winning the election and taking office, Chandler hit the ground running. In addition to meeting with Gov. John Bel Edwards about funding for the Jimmie Davis Bridge, he has added 10 officers to police patrols. He also has had several meetings with potential new businesses coming to Bossier City.

Chandler has crossed some rocky ground as well, including challenges from the city council over his staff appointments. Chandler said he is undeterred and will take lessons learned from the experience with him moving forward.

“We were not communicating correctly; there were a lot of misunderstandings on some things,” he said. "We are still going forward. We’re not going to stop.”

Traci Ponder is Chandler’s public information officer. She said many Bossier City residents have approached Chandler to express gratitude for his administration's work.

“Mayor Chandler’s excitement and passion for what he does is contagious,” Ponder said.

With a background in real estate, Chandler believes in curb appeal. One of his early initiatives was to begin cleanup efforts along Texas Avenue. He also is a proponent of fiscal responsibility and recruiting new economic opportunities.

Chandler also is a past president of the Crime Stoppers board of directors. He has served with the Bossier Housing Authority, the Bossier Parish Republican Executive Committee and the Louisiana Republican Central Committee.

Whether it’s expanding the city’s revenues or managing its employees, Chandler sees running Bossier City’s government the way he runs his business.

“I’ve learned we’ve got a lot of good people already in here working who I can lean on,” he said. “I need to let them show what they can do. I hope I have given everybody a little spark to get them going. Everybody needs to be recognized. If they work hard, I’m going to pat them on the back.”

Chandler and his wife, Paula, have two children, Thomas Jr. and Shelby Lane Chandler, and one granddaughter, Clayton Audrey Chandler. Chandler’s goal is to leave a lasting legacy in the city for them and other young people.

“We’re not just looking for tomorrow,” he said. “We’re looking 20 years down the road. We want to help Bossier for years to come.”


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