As the top official for the City of Minden, the office of mayor is perhaps the most important in the upcoming election. The three candidates whose dream is to lead the city for the next four years sat down with the Minden Press-Herald to answer questions about leadership and the focus of the city.

Cornelius
Cornelius

Joe Cornelius

What makes you uniquely qualified to be mayor?

I’ve been in politics since the late 1980s. I was trained by one of the best … that was Mayor Bill Robertson. I have served as city councilman – I am the only councilman that served two districts, District A and District B. I became mayor pro tem and interim mayor, and I know something about the city. It’s not a very hard job, but it’s a tedious job. That makes me qualified to go out and serve the people … all the people.

What are your priorities for the first 100 days in office?

My priorities would go over 100 days. I want to bring some businesses and jobs to the local residents here. My plans are to send out a resume that says, “come to Minden.” If some large company comes here and says they want to hire 200 residents to work, how do you bring them in? If the business owner signs a 10-year contract with me, I’m going to reduce his lights, I’m going to reduce his sewer, I’m going to reduce his water because my revenue in the end says I have 200 residents working in Minden, and that’s what I want. That’s one of my main priorities. Right behind that is housing, but you can’t buy a house if you’re not working.

 Other priorities are streets, sewer and water.

 How do you plan to move Minden forward?

The jobs I’m creating will move Minden forward. I want to see Minden grow. I want to see hotels, I want to see big restaurants. I want to use (Hwy.) 531 and the service road. I want to be something similar to Ruston, but I want everything zoned – zoned for the hotels, zoned for the restaurants. I also want to make the recreation center more accessible to senior citizens.

Minden is a midsize city. Will you keep it that way?

You can’t grow Minden too much. I want to give everyone that opportunity to come to Minden to live. I want to see Minden move ahead. Whatever it takes to lower Minden’s fire rating, I want to do that, too. I want to see my town grow. We have the best schools; we have the best churches. Minden is a good city to retire in. We have our kids when they graduate from school, they leave here because they have no jobs here. I want to keep them here, so they can start building their home here instead of buying a home in Shreveport.

I want to upgrade Minden. Population is 13,000 now, and Minden is a mid-size city. I think 21 or 22,000 people is a good size population.

Davis
Davis

Tommy Davis

What makes you uniquely qualified to be mayor?

The things that make me uniquely qualified to be mayor is that first of all I have had a lot of business experience. I’ve been in different businesses for 40 years. All of those businesses have been successful, and I give God the credit for that. When I’ve worked hard, God has blessed my efforts.

My experience – I started off on the planning commission and then I ran for city council and was on the council for a little over seven years. Now, I’ve had one year as mayor and I think my qualifications are mostly are my experiences in business and local government.

What are your priorities for the first 100 days in office?

I plan for it to be a continuation of what I’ve already started. One of the number one things is to move forward with the economic development position at the City of Minden. We have now put that in the budget and now we have a job description. We need to advertise for the job and get that person in place, hopefully before the first 100 days.

The second thing we need to prioritize is infrastructure. We are not in bad shape, but there are a lot of things that need to be done on a continual basis. One of those is our water system. Average use is about two million gallons of water a day, and we don’t have that much storage. We need a new two-million gallon water storage tank. That has been in the planning for a while, even by the past mayor.

The other is upgrading our electrical system. We need to continue the 115 loop around Minden. Right now, if we are cut in two in certain places in town, we won’t be able to serve the whole city. If the loop was complete, and we had a cut in our line somewhere, we would still be able to serve all the city because we could back feed. Right now, we can only go one way. That’s very important for us to do.

How do you plan to move Minden forward?

The best way to move a city forward is by good leadership. You’ve got to be able to have leadership. When I took office (former mayor) Bill Robertson had been sick for several months. We had an interim mayor for a short period of time, so basically we had been without any real leadership for almost a year. An interim mayor cannot do a job in three months because nobody could do it in that amount of time.

We’ve got good city employees and good supervisors, but everybody needs direction. I think that’s what I provide – direction for us to move forward.

Jobs, jobs, jobs is what we are all talking about, which is very important to us. One of the things that will help us more than anything is having the economic development director, so we can move forward in that direction.

Minden is a midsize city. Will you keep it that way?

We belong to what’s called the midsize cities. That’s from about 12,000 to 30,000 in population. For a long time, we will be a midsize city. As far as growth is concerned, I’m not sure where an ideal place for us would be, but certainly a population growth would be good for us in many ways.

One of the reasons we don’t have the restaurants and retail outlets we would like to have is our population. When they look at our demographics, we don’t look as big as we need to be. If we could get our total population to 20,000 or 25,000, we wouldn’t have any problem getting large chains and chain restaurants.

Odom
Odom

Chad Odom

What makes you uniquely qualified to be mayor?

I am uniquely qualified in both my education and career for the challenges facing Minden’s next mayor. My education, a Bachelors of Science in Urban Studies and Regional Planning with an emphasis on International Economic Development prepared me with both the base knowledge of how departments of a functioning municipality ought to operate as well how cities and regions plan their growth from the input of their citizens in order to harness the financial resources to achieve their goals.

My career over the last eight years began with a gig in International Economic Development with the World Trade Center of New Orleans as manager of the 1st Stop for International Business Services. During the planning phase of the recovery after Hurricane Katrina, my office worked closely with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Louisiana Economic Development, local developers and international trade delegations consisting of delegations of foreign government officials, ambassadors, congressional leaders, captains of business and industry and tycoons. This experience, as well as the contacts I have, gives me unique resources and the confidence to be aggressive while reaching out to potential high-level partners outside of Minden in order to get the information and resources we need to get growing as a community.

I also have worked overseas mentoring high-level professionals with diverse cultures and have been able to achieve great results with my student’s performance. I worked with GE Money to reorganize their voice protocol for the retail finance division following the financial regulations after the 2007 financial crisis. This reorganized a 4,500 person organization’s communications function and both complied with the new laws and improved customer service. You all can expect performance improvements from all departments under my leadership.

What are your priorities for the first 100 days in office?

I will immediately meet with the planning commission and hold council workshops to seek outside funding through the Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission to initiate a comprehensive land use plan. This will plan our entire city, neighborhood center by neighborhood center, using modern multi use zoning principles to allow more freedom to operate businesses in residential areas and more residential developments in business areas (like in downtown) while letting the citizens of each neighborhood inform the plan with their wishes as to the zoning and aesthetic standards of their own neighborhood.

I will immediately identify seniors and disabled on fixed income to address their delinquencies and rates on a case-by-case basis so that we are certain they are safe and secure in their energy needs.

I will form a commission of citizens to evaluate our utilities options under our power purchase agreement. One of their tasks will be to explore grants available to generate more power locally and reduce the amount of energy purchased from our provider whose costs continue to rise and will rise more in the future.

I will work with the city council to appoint a commission chaired by the mayor to combine the budgets of Economic Development, Main Street and Permitting to create the Office of Economic Development and Planning. This will create a more efficient and accountable office and ensure we are working together to facilitate growth for our city.

How do you plan to move Minden forward?

As a part of this we will seek funding for a transportation plan to plan for wheelchairs, bike and walking traffic to safely navigate our city to get from their homes to shopping, parks, churches safely.

We should hold planning meetings to reimagine all our corridors coming in and out of town so that when funding becomes available we can beautify our corridors. This plan is a best practice that is used in virtually every city that is achieving the kind of growth to which we aspire. This will allow us to be aggressive in our efforts to grow while revitalizing and maintaining the things that make our city such a special place to live.

We should also consult with market researchers to identify our niche in attracting middle class working families from Cyber Innovation Center and Barksdale Air Force Base to move to Minden and take advantage of the unique sense of place we have here at home. I truly believe that we can be the next great growth story if we harness a plan to maintain what makes us great and resolve to share it with others.

Minden is a midsize city. Will you keep it that way?

The initial growth we seek is just to restore the population lost over the last 30 years. It will take adding 4,000 new citizens to get to that point. The planning process will be comprehensively reevaluated every five years. If we can somehow achieve that kind of growth in five years we can revisit it then. We are somewhat limited by land, and I have no plans to stretch our infrastructure and footprint significantly further until the five year revisit of the land use plan. So I don’t think the our status as a midsize city will be in jeopardy until at least five years down the road and at that point we will be revisiting the plan in a comprehensive way to assess our growth. I surely hope that is one of the problems we will face. And as with everything we will do a reasoned cost benefit analysis to chart our course.