Port Allen’s next challenge: choosing an interim mayor

Port Allen council must fill seat by Sunday

Time is winding down for the City Council to appoint an interim mayor in the wake of Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter’s recall from office.

The council has until 12:01 a.m. Sunday to appoint an interim mayor until a special election can be held, most likely in April. If the council can’t agree on an appointment by Sunday, state law passes the decision to the governor.

The council only has one more scheduled meeting, on Wednesday, before the appointment deadline.

After Slaughter vacated the office on Nov. 25, Mayor Pro Tem Ray Helen Lawrence assumed the mayoral duties until the interim mayor appointment is made.

Lawrence said her constituents have already asked that she seek the interim appointment.

“My constituents have been pressing the issue for me to do it since I have the experience, but I’m going to have to pray on that,” she said.

If Lawrence is appointed interim mayor, it would mean vacating her council seat, then trying to reclaim it during next year’s primary elections.

Two former public officials say they’ve been approached about the interim mayor spot as well: former Mayor Lynn Robertson and Ted Denstel, a former president of West Baton Rouge Parish.

Denstel, 76, served two terms as parish president after previously serving 25 years as the parish manager.

Denstel said he was asked by a Port Allen councilman if he would be interested in filling in as the city’s mayor temporarily. Denstel did not say which councilman contacted him.

“I really haven’t shown much interest in it,” Denstel said. “I’ve been retired for awhile — and I’m still capable — but I just can’t say right now if I want to do it. A lot depends on who all wants it.”

Denstel said he would give city leaders a “delayed answer” after they got serious about picking someone.

Robertson serves as the executive director of the American Institute of Architects of Louisiana.

She said residents approached her about the interim mayor spot shortly after the recall effort against Slaughter was launched.

“I have a reputation of bringing the community together. That’s who needs to heal and move forward,” she said. “You have to go into the community and start building confidence.”

Robertson served as the city’s first female mayor from 1993 to 2004. While she’s “very interested” in serving as interim mayor, Robertson said she has no desire to run for the position on a full-time basis.

It appears unlikely the five-member council will make an unanimous decision regarding the appointment.

While councilmen Hugh “Hootie” Riviere and Garry Hubble declined to say which candidate they will support, both said they want the appointee to be someone with an administrative background.

“That’s what we need at this point because things have been so dysfunctional,” Riviere said. “To me, there are only two candidates that fit that criteria.”

Hubble said, “With all the dismantling that’s been done for the past 11 months we need someone who can help put the pieces back together. Whichever person is fit to do that, that’s the one I will support.”

He added, “You’re not going to please everyone. You could put the Pope in there and not everyone will be satisfied. You’ll have people saying there are hidden agendas.”

Councilman Brandon Brown favors Lawrence — if it’s what she wants.

Brown referred to the council’s appointment of Councilman At-Large R.J. Loupe as interim mayor in 2011 after former Mayor Derek Lewis was forced to resign after pleading guilty in a bribery-racketeering scandal.

Loupe served as interim mayor until Roger Bergeron took on the job full-time following his win in the November 2012 special election.

“(Loupe) was there long enough to understand what was going on,” Brown said.

“I feel the same way about Ray Helen. Loupe was pro tem then and able to get the support of the council members to vote yes for his appointment so I think we should repeat history. They want to follow everything else the way it has always been done.”

Loupe, however, said he’s not supporting anyone for interim mayor.

“I’m for letting the governor make the appointment,” Loupe said. “I’m not getting involved. We’re just not together on this and we’ve had enough dissension for the past 11 months. Let the governor do it and let the people vote on the next mayor, and that will be that.”