Senator tours Bogalusa | Sen. Landrieu bonds with Bogalusa

Published 9:23 am Friday, August 24, 2012

Thanks to the determination of two more local leaders, a U.S. senator not only visited Bogalusa Wednesday, but stayed for 3 and a half hours.

When Sen. Mary Landrieu arrived, she said that state Sen. Ben Nevers had been asking her to visit “for quite a while,” and that Mayor Charles Mizell had told her, “You’ve got to come.”

Those two, along with state Rep. Harold Ritchie, acted as hosts and guides when Landrieu “made good” during her August break from business in Washington D.C.

The local contingent was determined to give the national leader a clear and personal connection with Bogalusa, and to gain her support and guidance as it works to make improvements.

Via visits to the International Paper plant, Bogalusa and Varnado high schools and LSU Bogalusa Medical Center, a “windshield tour” through the challenged streets of the city that took in public housing, the Walmart construction site and Cassidy Park, and then a sit-down PowerPoint session at City Hall, the group familiarized Landrieu with the area’s needs as well as its efforts to address those needs.

The wide range of focus included education, infrastructure, health care and the economy. Landrieu was also introduced to projects, such as a new dairy cooperative and the upcoming Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival, both designed to help pick the community up, brush it off and make it shine.

All along the way, a fully engaged Landrieu asked questions and offered information, ideas and support.

Among other things, the local leaders told the U.S. senator about the need for completion of two long — awaited arteries of commerce-the east-west Zachary Taylor Parkway and north-south Louisiana Highway 3241; shared their ideas to improve education via a charter school proposed for the Industrial Park and introduction of a 0-5 early education program, and requested additional Head Start slots; requested guidance on a course of action to fight blight; and asked about possible funding sources for infrastructure improvements and for development of a proposed community center.

Landrieu offered models, guidance on potential funding and other resources, and contact information for specialized members of her staff. She also urged attendance at what she said would be a very informative Smart Growth Summit in Baton Rouge next week.

Additionally, Landrieu praised the dairy co-op initiative, which aims to save the local industry via a Bogalusa distribution site, as a potential national model to “buy local” akin to that now in effect for Louisiana seafood. And she said that with proper promotion, the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival could become a nationally known event that would help boost the city’s image.

Landrieu told Mizell, Nevers and Ritchie that her office “is available if there is anything you need.”

At the end of the day, the local leaders expressed satisfaction that the national leader had gained a deepened personal connection with Bogalusa.

They also expressed appreciation.

“We’ve never had a United States senator stay here this long,” Nevers exclaimed.