Road to Minden Mayor’s office 40 years in the making
Terry Gardner came to Minden in 1978 with a $500 loan from his brother and a job with Philip Morris USA. Forty years later, he’s been married to his wife Debbie for 25 years, owns three businesses and is about to take the reigns as mayor of Minden.
Gardner grew up in Shreveport with a civically engaged mother. Her involvement inspired his interest in politics.
“My mother was very politically involved in Shreveport, where I grew up. She was involved in mayoral elections, governor’s elections. She was the state president of the state PTA for many years. I guess that’s what I inherited from her,” Gardner reminisced.
As he carried on his mother’s legacy, Terry met with a core team nine months before the election. He attended community events and knocked on doors. He also garnered the support of his friends.
“Campaigning for mayor was exciting, it was fun. We knocked on a lot of doors. I’m a people person, I never meet a stranger. I had great conversations with people from the whole community, from different professional businesswomen to people that were retired. It was exhilarating.”
“George French, the retired CEO of Minden Medical Center and Larry Gipson, who owns a very successful business, Harris Corner on East Union – both great friends of mine. They made every step of the way with me. Their wives as well. Just like my wife, she’s my greatest asset. They made every fundraiser. They made every event, and they were very supportive of me too,” Gardner said.
Gardner also found young people to bring fresh perspective to his team. He emphasized teams and using the resources people had to offer.
“Hayden Finley, who is a 17 year old student at Lakeside. He did an awesome job of making every step with me, helping me on the campaign trail, doing social media. There are so many pieces to a campaign. IfI started mentioning everybody, I’d leave somebody out,” Gardner said.
Gardner won by a narrow margin. He hopes to unite the community in his win.
“We need to improve on, while we’ve got a great community, building our community as one, crossing racial barriers. The churches are working on that. The chamber is working on that. I think what you will see, as my administration unfolds, you’ll see more of the community coming together,” Gardner said.
He has plans to add new positions to the city including a grant writer. Gardner says he has already worked with current mayor, Tommy Davis and the City Council to add new positions to the budget. Gardner also has a focus in economic development for the city.
“I’m going to hit the ground running. I’m going to start looking for a contract grant writer. I’ve already got my feelers out for a grant writer. I’m going to work and help James Graham. I’m going to be his cheerleader in economic development. We’re going to start sending out letters to ask people, come to Minden, we’re here, we’re open for business. We’re going to have a ‘yes we can’ attitude,” Gardner said.
Gardner also hopes to work with the Recreation Department to form Summer programs for students out of school.
“We’re going to work at the recreation complex to start rebuilding our recreation department so we can have travel ball here this summer and we can have workshops here during the summer to help the young children that don’t have anything to do,” Gardner explained of his plans.
Gardner says he’s been meeting consistently with Davis to prepare for the transition into being the mayor. He says he and Tommy have been neighbors and friends for over thirty years.
“Do Tommy and I see eye to eye on everything? No. Are we friends? Yes. We all live in a small town and we all come together at the end of the day. I have been working at City Hall almost everyday. He’s helping me tremendously in transitioning,” Gardner said.
Gardner encourages the citizens of Minden to get out to vote in the December 8 election. There are three City Council seats still up for grabs and there was a large voter turnout for the November election that gained Terry the seat.
“A lot of the races were close. But at the end of the day, we were excited. It was a win. We still have district C, we’ve got a run-off in D and E too. I encourage all of the voters to get out there and vote, no matter who you vote for, vote,” Gardner said.
Gardner has already planned a meeting with community leaders to begin his time in office and make a concerted effort with others to move not just Minden, but Webster Parish forward.
“One of the things I’m going to do the second we come in office, we’re going to be meeting with all of our community leaders such as the police jury, tourism, chamber, state representative, even the mayor of Springhill is going to come down because what’s good for Minden is good for Springhill and vice versa. We’re going to meet with various leaders, about 12 of them so we can get on the same page, so we can pool our resources, so we can be dynamic and put Minden on the map,” Gardner said.
Gardner is excited to be mayor of a community of people that he loves. His time as Main Street Board chairman showed him the unity that can come from positive events.
“The people are our best asset. The people are what I love most about our town. You never meet a stranger. They honk at you, they wave at you no matter what,” Gardner said.
Gardner is hopeful for his time in office and what can be accomplished for Minden. He leans heavily on building teams of people to make decisions and listening to the input of others to encourage development.
“I think that I, along with the team-building we put in place, we can make great things happen in Minden. We can grow our established businesses, we can attract new business. We’re going to bring our community together as one community.
We’re going to partner with tourism, with the chamber, with the police jury, with the churches, with non-profits.
We’re going to be one community and we’re going to be the driving force at this end of the parish,” Gardner said.