Hopes high for Port Allen’s Mayor-elect Lee

PORT ALLEN — Mayor-elect Richard Lee’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing since Saturday night’s election when he snatched the city’s top office from three other mayoral candidates.

Lee clinched his victory by capturing 58 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results.

And on Monday, he said the congratulatory calls were still rolling in as he met briefly with city officials and interim Mayor Lynn Robertson at City Hall.

He also talked to former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter, whose recall on Nov. 16 prompted Saturday’s special mayoral race. Lee said their chat was brief but pleasant and she offered to work together in some capacity to unify the community.

“She’s a citizen just like everyone else,” Lee said Monday afternoon at City Hall. “She does have a lot of supporters, and we need to bring those people together, too, so we can all be one.”

City Council members said they see Lee’s victory as a sign the city is ready for a new beginning after a controversial year under Slaughter’s administration.

“I’m excited about it all,” Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere said. “I talked with (Lee) briefly on Saturday, and he said he plans to meet with the staff we have in place and just really allow them to do their day-to-day jobs. We have some good people already, so you don’t go in trying to reinvent the wheel — especially when it’s running smoothly.”

“That’s what I could never understand: why the previous administration did some of the things she did,” Riviere said.

Last year, Slaughter attempted to fire Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain, setting off a string of legal battles among the former mayor, the City Council and McCain.

The rest of the council said Monday that they have faith in Lee’s ability lead the city forward.

“He’s a nice young man. I met with him briefly this morning at City Hall,” Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence said. “I don’t have any animosity toward him. It is what it is. I can work with anyone. We need to all come together and pull the city back, and that’s what I told him today.”

Councilman at-large R.J. Loupe added, “All I want to do is work together. Don’t forget about me; I’m elected, too. And I think that’s what we had happening before.”

Councilman Brandon Brown said he’s going to make the best of the situation and keep an open mind at the possibilities Lee might bring with his administration.

There are still a few lingering clouds of controversy hanging over the city.

One of them being an investigation by the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office into possible early voter fraud in the mayoral race. Another is a complaint filed by Slaughter’s supporters with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging the voter fraud investigation was nothing more than a drive to intimidate voters.

The Sheriff’s Office launched its probe March 27 after receiving hundreds of complaints that mail-in and faxed requests for early voting ballots did not match voter information on file with the parish Registrar of Voters Office.

Slaughter fired back April 2 by having her attorney file a complaint with the Justice Department seeking an investigation into alleged voter intimidation and suppression through the Sheriff’s Office investigation.

Col. Richie Johnson, with the Sheriff’s Office, said Monday the investigation is far from over.

“The conclusion of the election has no bearing on the status of our criminal investigation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Robertson said she intends to help Lee with his transition into City Hall anyway she can.

Within the short time she has been in office, Robertson kicked off an aggressive beautification effort to rid the city of blighted properties, and she has reignited the city’s annexation interests.

Robertson said Lee indicated in his conversation with her that he intends to carry on her efforts.

“I do plan to stay involved with the city’s Master Plan committee,” she said. “We met about two hours this morning but really didn’t talk about what’s next. We’ll probably talk about that later and how I can help with any of that.”

The earliest Lee can take office is April 15. The other candidates have until 4:30 p.m. April 14 to contest the election results.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as it might seem,” Lee said. “Once I get to know everyone, I think things will go pretty smoothly.”