Conversation with local mayors

“We are only constrained by our minds,” said Dan Hollingsworth, mayor of Ruston.Change and cooperation seemed to be the main points of both mayors in a program hosted by the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. The graduate students of the department played host to the public officials by sanctioning a open forum type setting for students, faculty and other members of the community.

“We are happy to have the mayors of Grambling and Ruston here to share with our students details regarding their experiences as public administrators,” said Dr. Sarah Dennis, assistant professor of Public Administration.

The two city mayors were asked to provide an insight as to what it took to run their respective municipalities and needless to say there are many things that both must keep afloat.

Mayor Edward R. Jones of Grambling began the discussion with his job description. Jones was a former mayor pro tem (“for the time being”), and Chamber of Commerce president before being elected to the position of mayor for the City of Grambling. To open his part of the discussion, he talked about what exactly a mayor does. He gave an explanation as to how public works (water, sewage, garbage pick-up, etc.) actually works.

“We read the meters and calculate exactly how much water is used by each citizen, then we generate a water bill for each customer,” explained Jones.

The mayor also has the job of enacting ordinances and resolutions, of course with the help of the five city councilmen that have been elected. The council, as he explained, controlled the purse strings of the city so he must look to them when he wants to get projects done.

“I cannot make a decision about certain things alone, the councilmen must approve the decision as well,” said Jones.

Another focus of Jones plan was to bring businesses such as hotels, super markets, and eateries so that the people of Grambling would not have to drive all the way to Ruston to get what they needed. “The sales tax in Louisiana is 8.75 percent and Grambling receives 2 percent of that. What we want residents to understand is that when you buy things in Grambling, it comes back to you,” said Jones. He also gave various points from his mayoral elect platform of wanting to provide students with internship opportunities as well as with an opportunity to help gentrify the section of Grambling better known as “The Village” along Historic Main Street by opening their own businesses, Then the current mayor proceeded to give the crowd his vision of what he wanted to see in happen in our little city.

“I want to make sure that when you and your family move here, you can get most of your goods and services here too,” expressed Jones.

Next to explain what he does exactly was Mayor Hollingsworth of Ruston. Hollingsworth is currently serving his fourth consecutive term as the mayor of Ruston (1999-present). To begin his speech, he explained that a mayor must exemplify the city and that the council has the real power. Hollingsworth talked about the turmoil that existed before he took office and how his administration changed Ruston for the better. “We looked at bigger cities and found that you need better people for a better government,” Hollingsworth mused.

Virtuous people of good moral character are whom he said that people should strive to elect into public office. He also talked about the time that he spends talking to the Alderman of the five wards of Ruston. Then he spoke of how during his tenure of mayor that he has always worked in favor of the Louisiana Tech University.

“Much of the progress that you see in due to what the students wanted to see, and we see it as an advantage to the city to have a university in it,” exclaimed Hollingsworth. A point of emphasis for his speech was that for the city of Ruston to grow, it must have an educated population to drive the economy.

Hollingsworth also alluded to the fact that both Grambling and Ruston must be willing to cooperate with each other so that the cities can prosper and grow. “We have more in common than we think, if we would just communicate with one another,” pleaded Hollingsworth.

Both mayors then fielded questions from the audience. The questions after the speeches ranged from which entity held the most power, mayors or councilmen to how Ruston grew so fast.

In reference to mayoral power, Hollingsworth said, “There must be a balance, and running a government must be shared responsibility between the council and the mayor.”

As his reply to the same, Jones had this to say, ” The Lawrason Act which we use to govern Grambling gives the mayor more power than the councilmen but we must find a balance in government.”

Hollingsworth also shed light on Ruston’s dynamic growth and stated that it was due to years of preparing the city as far as getting roads, water and sewage.

The discussion overall was one that gave life to a new emerging bond between two cities that are rallying for opportunities to grow.