When the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council holds its first meeting of the new year Jan. 2, its first order of business after members are sworn in will be to select a mayor pro tem for the next four years.
The election of a new pro tem has proven to be a sometimes divisive issue for previous councils, and several of this council’s members are already lining up to be considered for the post.
The mayor pro tempore is the Metro Council’s leader, who chairs council meetings and can step in to fulfill the duties of a mayor-president in the event the mayor-president is unable to serve.
Council members Chandler Loupe, Joel Boé, Tara Wicker and Donna Collins-Lewis have each expressed an interest in holding the leadership seat. Trae Welch and C. Denise Marcelle said they will support Loupe, but if he doesn’t have the votes, both said they’d also like to be considered.
Loupe said he’d be a good choice for mayor pro tem because he’s “fair, impartial” and not running for mayor-president in 2016.
“I don’t want to see anyone that’s running for mayor be the mayor pro tem. I don’t want to go through that again.” Loupe said, referring to former Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker who ran against Holden this year.
Loupe said Wicker has publicly expressed a desire to run for mayor-president.
Wicker said she has more time available than some of the other council members, which puts her in a better position to serve.
“I’m one of the council members that doesn’t have another full time job, and I have the availability to be there,” she said. “Lots of times what happens is you have to be at things, not just in your district but to represent the council.”
Boé said he’s a consensus builder who has developed a good working relationship with the mayor’s office that will be important moving forward.
“I think I could bring something positive to the council,” Boé said. “Although we don’t always agree all the time, I can help us work together because we all have the same end goal in mind — to make Baton Rouge better.”
Collins-Lewis also said she would excel at working with all the council members and with the administration.
Council members earn $1,800 a month, but the mayor pro tem gets an additional $1,500 per month — which amounts to an additional $18,000 each year for four years.
Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards, one of the few returning council members not seeking the seat, said the next mayor pro tem needs to better enforce order at council meetings.
“When we agree to procedural terms, we need to hold one another accountable in complying with those terms,” she said. “That would make the meetings flow more efficiently and effectively.”
Edwards said she intends to support a woman as mayor pro tem because “in the entire history of city-parish government, only two women have served as mayor pro tem” — Mary Frey Eaton and Lorri Burgess.
Walker, who was unanimously elected pro tem in 2009, said the pro tem needs to treat the position like a full time job.
“You must always be available,” he said. “They have come and got me off golf courses, the grocery store, at my home, to sign documents,” he said. “This is much, much more than being just a councilman, but you also can’t turn your back on your own district.”
Walker, who ends his 12 years as councilman Dec. 31, said he remembers eight years ago when the council was deadlocked in an ugly battle over the position that lasted about two months. He said he hopes the council is able to work it out at the inaugural meeting.
“The public does not like it when the council members go into office divided,” Walker said. “If it lingers, there are animosities that are sometimes hard to work through.”