Cover Story

The Men Who Would Be King

by Angie Simoneaux

This year’s race for city-parish president is shaping up to be one between south side Republicans. Little surprise there.

Dee Stanley
Photo by Robin May

At this point, it seems likely that the person who will succeed Joey Durel as city-parish president will be one of two men: Dee Stanley, Durel’s longtime chief administrative officer, or term-limited state Rep. Joel Robideaux.

Stanley has been CAO since Durel took office in January 2004. Prior to that he was a reporter and anchor for KLFY and served as clerk of the city council (preconsolidation) during the terms of Mayors Dud Lastrapes and Kenny Bowen.

Robideaux serves in the state House of Representatives and also is a CPA. During his time in Baton Rouge he has been speaker pro tem and chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, and he sponsored Bobby Jindal’s ill-fated tax plan in 2013. He cannot serve in the House beyond his current term, which concludes at the end of 2015.

So where do these guys, both Republicans, stand on the issues facing Lafayette? Interestingly, they don’t seem too far apart on any of the major issues — yet.

Arts and Culture: The candidates agree that the arts are an integral part of our community identity.

Stanley says we need a multi-purpose, performing arts center. The Heymann Center isn’t ready for mothballs by any stretch of the imagination, but the community’s needs have evolved significantly since it was built, he says.

“If we are going to become the community we aspire to be, we have to have a performing arts multi-purpose facility,” Stanley says. “Where it will be, what it will be, how we will fund it, that’s going to require a massive community effort, it will require multiple partners, and I hope I’m around to play a role in that.”

Robideaux says the AcA’s comprehensive plan component is important, because he supports a self-defining arts community.

“Anything that [AcA Executive Director] Gerd [Wuestemann] and the rest of the arts community can do to enhance its footprint on Lafayette needs to be done,” he says. “I think we should certainly pay attention to whatever the arts community has to say, and figure out the best way to support it. As an elected official, it’s about setting priorities to put Lafayette in the best position possible to succeed and to ignore the arts and culture component wouldn’t be in Lafayette’s best interest, because it’s so much a part of our identity.”

Joel Robideaux
Photo by Robin May

Downtown: The candidates agree that the crucial component currently missing is a vigorous residential presence.

“It’s a complicated issue, but you can’t ignore it,” Robideaux says. “Any community that has a downtown needs to make sure that their downtown is an attraction, a positive element; and for Lafayette, the one thing that our Downtown is missing is the residential side. ...We have to figure out a way to get developed Downtown for residential use, and need to get everyone on the same page.”

Stanley says there’s a “chicken and egg” aspect to attracting residential development to an area. If people are going to live somewhere, they want to see businesses there that will support their life, he said, like grocery stores, other retail stores, movie theaters, etc. But those businesses need residents to survive. Government’s role is to create and maintain the infrastructure that will attract both retail and residential development to the neighborhood, Stanley says.

Comprehensive Plan: Both men support it, and both believe the plan (unlike the first two comprehensive plans Lafayette embraced) will be followed.

A New Bridge: Robideaux and Stanley agree that Lafayette needs another bridge, and they agree on the location as well — and it’s not South College. They both support extending South City Parkway from Robley Drive to Verot School Road or Vincent Road, with a bridge across the Vermilion River.

“The development around where that bridge needs to go is already there. It’s not in the middle of nowhere. There’s a pocket where there is development all around now,” Stanley says.

Robideaux says right-of-way conflicts are to be expected.

“I think there needs to be another bridge. I think it would be hard for anyone to make an argument that we don’t need a new bridge,” Robideaux says. “There’s so little area that’s realistically available that has property on both sides of the river, almost by default it limits us to the location they’re talking about.”

North vs. South Lafayette: Here’s one issue where the candidates have fairly different, albeit not necessarily opposing views.

“I do feel like there still is that schism that exists,” Robideaux says. “I think it’s better than it has been, but there still is a lot more work to be done to make sure all citizens feel they are part of the Lafayette community.”

Stanley says that, as part of Durel’s administration, he’s tried very hard to make sure that community needs are addressed based on need — not geography.

“There is and has been a perception of city and parish, and north and south, but we are Lafayette Parish,” Stanley says. “Together we look at needs and set priorities.” — Angie Simoneaux