Two Gretna City Council members in race for mayor

Gretna council members Belinda Constant and Vincent Cox III both say it’s their experience that makes them qualified to serve as Gretna’s next mayor now that longtime Mayor Ronnie Harris is moving into the private sector.

Cox said that in more than two decades as a councilman, he’s helped Gretna claw its way back from dire financial straits in the 1980s and 1990s and complete crucial infrastructure projects for the future.

Constant said she’s served as a legislator, business owner and administrator and knows how to boost Gretna’s image locally and nationally. Both candidates say that serving as mayor has been their dream for many years, and if elected, they will provide a steady hand to guide Gretna in the years to come.

Cox is the city’s most senior council member, having served alongside Harris as a politician since the 1980s. He said that even in high school, he knew he wanted to be mayor of Gretna one day, and he believes his time on the council has been the perfect preparation for the job.

“It’s been a lifelong goal of mine,” Cox said. “There’s been 26 years of preparation for this job … I was there when we turned this city around.”

Cox promises to bring fiscal responsibility to Gretna and said he already has plans for how to increase efficiency in the city by combining some city departments and functions. He’s long advocated for across-the-board cuts for the city.

He said Gretna needs to establish a master plan for its capital projects and move away from the current model of piecemeal funding in individual districts. Cox pushed for the city’s $5.7 million multipurpose center, which opened earlier this month.

Gretna needs a new vision, Cox said, and he believes he has that vision. He wants the city to concentrate on getting concrete results for the money it spends on everything.

“I think we’ve taken our eye off the ball, and we’ve spent capital money and spent it on things it shouldn’t be spent on,” said Cox, specifically mentioning the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in direct payments to the Gretna Heritage Festival. “I want to get our focus back on bricks and mortar when it comes to capital.”

Constant said she’s the candidate who has the track record of success in a variety of different roles. She used to run Jefferson Parish’s highly successful drug court; she managed her own court reporting business, and she’s served two terms on the City Council.

Constant said she first considered running for mayor in 2000, when she got more involved in city business. Serving as a councilwoman was an apprenticeship of sorts, she said, and now she’s ready to move into the main job.

“We all make plans for our life, and this is the plan and the path I chose,” Constant said. “I actually have more experience as an administrator than a legislator … Administration is my background.”

Constant said that for too long Gretna has failed to adjust and make the city’s services adapt to residents’ needs. As a former small business owner, Constant said she wants to revamp the city’s permitting and licensing process to make things easier for residents.

“We need a process and a procedure in place where we can streamline that process for people,” Constant said. “People’s time is precious, and they don’t have a whole lot of it to spare.”

She mentioned her plans to improve the city’s infrastructure and remain committed to funding all of its public safety operations. Constant said Gretna is a “treasure” and she knows how to protect it. She has pushed for a new visitor’s center, cultural arts center and was instrumental in returning Mardi Gras activities to the city.

“I’ve done that with the drug court program, and I want to do that with the city of Gretna,” she said.