Central’s newly-elected mayor, police chief discuss plans

Jr. Shelton won’t be sworn in as Central’s new mayor until July 1, but the Republican mayor-elect says his work began Sunday morning.

Since capturing 59 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election, Shelton already has met with outgoing Central Mayor Shelton “Mac” Watts, the city’s only mayor since its incorporation in 2005, to discuss city business.

He’s also met with officials from the parish parks system, and has lined up additional meetings with elected leaders and the Airport Commission.

Shelton, along with the rest of the slate of newly elected Central city leaders, spoke on Wednesday at the East Baton Rouge Parish GOP’s Ronald Reagan Newsmaker Luncheon.

“We’re going to put Central first and move forward,” Shelton said, alluding to the contentious battle between himself and Dave Freneaux, his lone rival in the mayor’s race. “We’re going to move forward as one city with one goal.”

Among his goals, Shelton said, is to build better relationships with other cities and entities outside Central’s borders.

He said often people want to put a bubble around the small community.

“We’ve not done a good job of promoting ourselves,” he said.

He said he wants to bring in more retail and work more closely with subdivision developers to ensure quality growth.

“I’m up to the task,” Shelton said.

The city’s incoming police chief, James Salsbury, who also was elected Saturday, also has a plan.

A retired Baton Rouge police officer and volunteer for the Central Police Department for three years, Salsbury said he wants to convert the part-time, volunteer-based police force to a full-time police department, likely with the assistance of a private firm. Much of Central’s city government functions have been privatized since the city’s creation in 2005.

“I cannot wait to get started,” Salsbury said. “This is going to be something they’ve never seen before.”

Shelton said he promised Salsbury before Saturday’s election that he would be supportive of his plan for the police department if both were elected.

“He has a plan for our department,” Shelton said. “He had a very tough campaign, but he maintained true to himself. I’m proud he’s our new police chief.”

All of the Central candidates elected Saturday were endorsed by the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge.

Newly elected city council members who spoke at the parish GOP event Wednesday said they are eager to get to work.

“July 1 can’t come too soon,” Council member-elect Kim Fralick said.

She joked that she is putting off a previously scheduled vacation in Tennessee for her first council meeting.

“I don’t have huge plans or sweeping changes I want to make,” said Councilman-elect John Vance. “I just want to help our city have the best city we can have.”

Two City Council candidates will face each other in a runoff next month. Jason Ellis and incumbent Councilman Ralph Washington will be in a runoff May 3 for the fifth — and only remaining vacant — seat on the board.