GONZALES — Barney Arceneaux believes Gonzales has grown during his first term as mayor and is poised for even more growth in the future.
His challenger, Jeff Little, however, believes his hometown is in need of better leadership and is taking his shot at the city’s top office.
The election will be held Nov. 6. Early voting begins Tuesday and will continue through Oct. 30.
Arceneaux, a former Gonzales police chief who succeeded longtime mayor Johnny Berthelot in 2008, said his top priority as mayor always has been economic development, and he said Gonzales is reaping the reward for that push. There are new hotels and restaurants in the city. A new bowling alley is on the way, and possibly a movie theater.
Emerson Process Management will build a new regional campus within the next 12 months, consolidating 125 local jobs in Gonzales and creating 50 to 60 new ones.
Arceneaux also touted the upcoming Edenborne development near Interstate 10 that will combine single- and multi-family residential housing options with a new hotel, office park and new campus site for River Parishes Community College.
“In four years we’ve brought this kind of business and this kind of growth to the community,” Arceneaux said.
Little, who served in the U.S. Army and now works for Broussard Paper in Gonzales, said he always has been called to be a leader — as an athlete in high school, in the military and in his current employment. He said he can bring those leadership traits to city government.
“During the last four years, our town has seemed to be on cruise control,” Little said. “Beautification has become lax, and I don’t feel our city is putting its best foot forward. We no longer have an administration that takes a proactive approach to issues and problems that face our city. Our town deserves more. Our citizens deserve more.”
In addition to job creation, Arceneaux said transportation infrastructure is a major priority for him. He’s focused on overlaying roads in the city and now is working with the state Legislature to build several new roads in the city.
“It looks good,” Arceneaux said. “I feel good about it. We’ll probably get some new roads.”
Little, too, said he would focus on infrastructure improvements. In addition to roads, Little said he has concerns about drainage in various parts of the city.
However, more than those two issues, he said his top priority in office would be the residents of the city.
“I believe a great city is measured by the quality of lives of the people who live in it,” Little said. “I am proactive by nature. I will be a mayor who will be out and about the city looking for areas we can improve. You should not have to call me to report problems.”
Little said he is not a politician, but that doesn’t mean he can’t use his abilities to help improve the city he calls home.
“I am a guy who loves his city. Public service runs in my blood,” Little said. “I have worked with some of the area industries in assisting them in finding solutions. I have volunteered as a football, basketball, baseball and softball coach within this community. I am very much a people person, and a good mayor is one who will listen and work with his council. I am running for mayor to represent the people of Gonzales and do what needs to be done to bring our city back on top.”
Despite what Arceneaux considers a successful first term, he said he wasn’t surprised when he drew an opponent in the election, though it was somewhat surprising that Little waited until the final day before qualifying. Since then, Arceneaux said, he’s been hitting the ground campaigning for a second term.