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Monday, Jan. 6, 2014

MEET THE CANDIDATES

New year starts active election season

The new year brings us a fairly active election season – Congressional races, local school board member choices, campaigns for judges and district attorneys – and for Shreveport and Bossier City Marshals.


And on both sides of the river, candidates for City Marshal have already actively started campaigning. In Shreveport, incumbent City Marshal Charlie Caldwell’s most active challenger, D.D. Otis, had campaign signs out before the end of the year.


No slouch in the early launch, Bossier City Marshal candidate Carl Wayne Richard’s “Best Wishes and Happy New Year” post cards were showing up in city voters’ mailboxes between Christmas and New Years.  


The election is Nov. 4.


It’s going to be a long election season on the local front. Nearly year-long campaigns tend to wear on voters. But as long as the candidates are out there, the first week of the new year is as good a time as any to introduce them.


Richard worked in the Bossier City Marshal’s office until 1996; he’s served as a Shreveport Deputy Marshal since 1997. He was a candidate in the three-way April 2011 election that decided the successor to longtime Marshal Johnny Wyatt, who died in a car accident. Retired Bossier City Police Chief and retired Bossier Parish School Board security chief Lynn Austin garnered more than half the vote at 53.99 percent;Richard managed 29.6 percent, while Sammy Wyatt finished at 16.36 percent.


Richard isn’t the only announced candidate, however. Last July, I briefly visited with Capt. Jim Whitman, 10-year veteran of the Bossier City Marshal’s office – who discussed his intent to run for City Marshal. Whitman is a newcomer to politics but is expected to have strong Bossier support.


Only Whitman and Richard have announced their candidacies. Austin does not intend to run for re-election; he was fairly clear his only purpose for running in 2011 was to fill out Wyatt’s term.


Over the next couple of months, this space will feature candidate profiles on Richard and Whitman and any other candidate for Bossier City Marshal. In the meantime, it’s worth a look back at the significant changes Austin made on taking office, particularly in financing the Bossier City Marshal’s Office.


First, he cut the City Marshal’s salary by nearly half. His predecessor’s salary had averaged about $140,000 per year of which the city paid $32,784 – the balance coming from the Marshal’s office contingency fund (pursuant to law). Austin had observed during the election campaign that he didn’t believe the City Marshal should make more than the Bossier City Chief of Police and therefore would reduce the salary if elected.


He was and he did. His annual salary is $72,500. I’ll be asking candidates for Austin’s job where they stand on the salary issue and suggest that voters do as well.


Austin also kept a campaign promise to “scrub” the City Marshal’s budget, reducing it by an estimated $8,000 per month. He ended monthly rental charges for a storage unit along with the cost of an answering service (favoring an automated system) for his office’s non-duty hours. Boats owned by the Marshal’s office were donated to the city’s fire department, an unneeded vehicle was sold, and several others were donated to small police departments.


Two part-time employees were let go and Austin eliminated all billboards and advertising for the Marshal’s office related to children and the Internet, favoring instead an upgraded website and saving another $30,000 per year.


On the other hand, the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce has been a focus for Austin’s office, particularly as it concerns adding necessary electronic systems and increasing area law enforcement agencies’ to participate in taskforce work.


Austin’s efforts to develop and maintain a very conservative budget and to emphasize the priorities of the Bossier City Marshal’s Office is not
lost on Bossier City voters. Doubtless those voters will want to maintain that status.


It’s going to be a long election season; we should take advantage of the opportunity to carefully evaluate all contenders for public office to make sure these folks share our vision for public officeholders’ performance.

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