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The Voice of Southwest Louisiana News Magazine June 2017

The Voice of Southwest Louisiana News Magazine June 2017

SWLA news Mayor-Elect

SWLA news Mayor-Elect Nic Hunter announced these members in his May 15th press conference at Lake Charles City Hall. Hunter’s Transition Team of five members from various socioeconomic and racial backgrounds were chosen to help break down long-standing walls between sections of the city. They will help him with his move into office on July 1, 2017 and will evaluate employee and department functions also. Pictured from L-R: Rev. Edward Alexander Jr., Gary Gobert, Nic Hunter, Willie Mount, Dennis Stine and Harold Winey. City Administrator John Cardone will continue to function in his current administrative capacity. He has served as administrator since 2008. Mayor-Elect Nic Hunter announced his selection for City Attorney, which must be confirmed by the City Council. David Morgan, a partner at Stockwell Sievert law firm, joined the firm in 2000 after graduating from Louisiana State University Law School. His bachelor’s degree is from Tulane University. Hunter appointed nine people to a newly-formed entity, the Community Advisement and Assessment Board, charged with identifying ways to unify the community. Pictured from L-R: Rev. Steve James, Junaid Abbasi, Rev. Joseph Banks, Nic Hunter, Catherine Riggins and Sylvia Stelly. Not pictured: Dr. Robert Arango, Courtnee Brown, Sean Corcoran and Randy Fuerst. Spirit to Spirit Mayor Elect Nic Hunter speaks with Brenda Hill in a warm and friendly chat. Mayor Elect Nic Hunter made a choice in his mid-twenties to dedicate his time to the city he loves, and to his community. “I first became interested in politics as a student studying history at McNeese. I went on to study political history, specifically Louisiana political history." Hunter says he considered expanding the business, Harlequin Steak House, continuing to grow the restaurant, or to dedicate his time to the city and to the community. He realized that if he was going to open multiple restaurants, it would take him out of Lake Charles, away from the city he loves and away from his family, so he became more involved in the community. “There came a point in my life that the high I received from making money was superseded by the high I received from philanthropy, being involved in the community and getting involved in local charities that needed my help. This was a natural progression into politics. I got my toes wet on the Police Jury, and I’m glad I did. I loved my experience on the Police Jury. It was very rewarding and I gained so much knowledge and so much wisdom about how government functions. The Police Jury was all of those positive things, but it was also a little frustrating because you are limited as 1 of 15 members. When I heard that Mayor Randy Roach was retiring, I said to myself, 'Now that is a job that I can really do some good. I can really be a positive impact on this city'.” Economic Development in Lake Charles: Hunter wants to know: "What can we do to give you the tools and infrastructure to turn your idea into a business? Some of the largest corporations in this world started out just as an idea, says Hunter.” When Hunter was asked to expound on his idea of a having a Satellite Seed Center in North Lake Charles, he said, “We have a SEED Center at McNeese that offers tutelage, information, as well as office space at a discounted rate. People gain the opportunity to learn how to start a business and how to keep a business going. Those are two separate things. It is very easy to go form an LLC with the State and start a business. It is another thing to keep that business going and make that business profitable over a long period of 6 June 2017 WWW.THEVOICEOFSOUTHWESTLA.COM Volume 4 • Number 9

time. I would like to see a place smack dab in the middle of North Lake Charles to where people from the neighborhood can visit this location to learn about how to start their business and how to make it profitable, with office space at a discounted rate for people starting out. Offer their idea a place to grow. We don’t want them to be there forever, but eventually to go and build their own building, not just to be a business owner but an owner of real estate too." Hunter desires to empower individuals to become their own boss and start their own business and he knows, understands and has not forgotten the importance of Mentorship. “I was 20 years old when I opened up the restaurant. I was so lucky the first two or three years that I did not go bankrupt because I did not know what the heck I was doing. But, I thank God, along the way, I was able to have some people come to me and guide me and offer me wisdom. There are a lot of individuals that have ‘that dream’ and have ‘that vision’ for a business, and we as individuals that have been successful in business, I think, have an obligation to help these younger individuals pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Let us offer them wisdom,” says Hunter. Prison Re-Entry Population: “We’ve simply got to get our recidivism rates down,” says Hunter. Louisiana is considered the world’s prison capital with the majority of inmates housed in ‘for profit’ facilities in need of a constant supply of humans, according to an article written by Cindy Chang, Times Picayune. cchang@timespicayune.com. Visit NOLA.com When asked about the prison population, Hunter confessed that he has done a lot of thinking about the prison re-entry population and says, “More can be done.” “Just over the past two days I have done a lot of thinking about the prison re-entry population. Mayor Roach, who is very passionate about recidivism, and I have had conversations in the past weeks about this very issue. We’ve got to get our recidivism rates down. When I look at a problem like this, I think about it in short term solutions, but also long term solutions because continuing to put band-aids on a wound is not a way to heal. In the short term, expungements are very important. Our DA, John DeRosier and I have had some really in-depth conversations about how to encourage people to come to the table to get their record expunged so they have access to more job opportunity. That is something I feel the DA has taken a good lead on and he has an expungement program that he and I want to see expanded." Hunter was very honest in discussing ‘long term solutions by saying, “I don’t know the answers to that. There are a lot of people that are much wiser than I am, and that have tried to tackle this issue of the poverty incarceration rate. I believe the two are linked. The biggest part of the ingredient to help get our incarceration rates down over the long run is education. Education, economic opportunity, access to health care and faith-based programs are all very important. I’d be hard-pressed to choose which one of those is most important, but I believe a quality, excellent education offered to our children, and economic opportunity, will have the biggest impact. I believe we have a Christian and moral opportunity to educate every child, whether that child is born into a poor household or a more affluent one. How can we condemn them to a life that has less opportunity than another child born into a household with more? ...There are a lot of individuals that have ‘that dream’ and have ‘that vision’ for a business, and we as individuals that have been successful in business, I think, have an obligation to help these younger individuals pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Let us offer them wisdom,” says Hunter. I want to look at how the city can get involved in after school programs. I’ve been talking with some educators about this. The mayor of Lake Charles is not on the school board, but that shouldn’t be the answer to what a mayor can or cannot do to help education. That’s not offering anything to the table. I think we can get more involved in that critical area from the time school ends in the afternoon to the evening time. What more can we do at our parks and recreation centers to keep kids engaged physically, stimulate their mind and make sure they are not idle. We all know what idleness leads to." Hunter says, “Even if we set aside the Christian and moral responsibility to educate children and you are an amoral person, let’s look at the dollars and cents of it. The money, the cost of incarceration, monetarily, is much higher than the cost to properly invest in the education of a child. When you incarcerate, there is a cost to the family and a cost to society. I believe it is fairly easy to say a welleducated child will have lot less of an opportunity to get involved in crime than a child that didn’t have opportunity for education. How can we reach these kids before they get to that point? It would be good for this community. It would be good for Lake Charles." Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections (DPS&C) reports the average annual cost per inmate at $17,486 (Fact Sheet January 2012). The annual cost per student in Louisiana is $10,660. See www.governing. (Education Spending Per Student by State Governing magazine) For more information visit: www. governing.com, www.vera.org/ priceofprisons, https://www. prisonlegalnews.org and www. governing.com. Hunter discussed other city issues and one budget for one Lake Charles. He concluded by presenting this challenge. “If anyone comes to me and wants to open a ‘Fine Dining’ restaurant in the north side of Lake Charles, I will sit down with them and bestow everything I know about the restaurant business upon them. I will share everything I have learned because I know the mistakes I made. I want to see other people be successful and my wife and I will eat lunch there every week and come back for evenings too. I believe in myself, but even more so than that I believe in other people and I believe if we give people the tools and a little encouragement amazing things can happen and the sky is the limit. That’s exciting for me!" Volume 4 • Number 9 WWW.THEVOICEOFSOUTHWESTLA.COM June 2017 7

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