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Story Archives: Johnson discusses plans for city
|Johnson discusses plans for city|
With a few weeks remaining before he takes the helm of city government in Winnsboro, Mayor-elect Jackie Johnson sits down for an interview with Franklin Sun reporter Tom Bonnette.
Q: You have talked about putting a transition team together comprised of some of Winnsboro's best and brightest. Who exactly have you vetted for this team and what has the response been?
A: This team really has not been going in the manner which I wanted it. However, I have spoken with former Mayor Billy Cobb and I've spoken with Danny Lofton. I have spent a great deal of time speaking with mayors in northeast Louisiana to get ideas. I'm scheduled to meet with the mayor of Ferriday in the very near future.
I've spoken with all of our local legislators, including Rep. (Noble) Ellington, who has been very, very kind and helpful. He has introduced me to members of the governor's staff and other legislative members.
I've spoken to Sen. Neil Riser and the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
I have asked (Winnsboro Main Street manager) Kay LaFrance-Knight to be a part of my transition team and traveled with her to Baton Rouge to meet with our legislators. I've met with the chairman of our chamber of commerce, Paul Price, and we are scheduling another meeting between the two of us.
I have spoken to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Director Clarence Hawkins. He has met with me and opened doors for me to go in and meet with them.
Rev. Smith of Rayville, who is the economic development director, put together a meeting with the USDA to provide us with information to help out constituents who are low to moderate income, and some who don't fall into those income brackets, acquire a home.
Q: In the campaign, you mentioned commissions you would like to put together to work to solve problems as well as establishing new lines of communication with other public bodies like the school board. Have you made any strides in this area?
A: I have not. Danny Lofton has been particularly interested in helping me acquire grants and for start-up money for small business and counseling small businesses on how to they could operate and he has agreed to chair a commission to do these things.
Q: Another campaign promise that you made was to keep people who now work for city government in their current jobs. Do you still intend to do this or are their people who are you thinking about replacing?
A: That was a campaign promise that I made and it's very important I keep promises that I made. I have to be honest with you; it is equally important that the people in those positions are loyal and dedicated to the betterment of this town.
Q: You have also spoke about changing the "status quo" in Winnsboro. Could you elaborate on what you mean by that and what exactly you think needs to change.
A: With the appointment of Ronald Lewis (as administrative assistant), who will be key figure in changing the status-quo, we are going to be an aggressive industry-seeking administration. We are going to pull all stops out in selling this great city to the rest of the nation. I'm particularly interested in asking former Mayor Cobb to come back on board and help in this area.
Q: One recent area of controversy in city government has been the Town Council voting to double their monthly stipend —from $150 to $300. You have supported the council doing this. Could you explain why?
A: I believe a person should be compensated for what they do. I believe that we have a very, very good council with people who take their job very seriously. It was my understanding that the salary was initially set at $300 a month and it was agreed to that they would receive $150 a month. Speaking with Councilman Rex McCarty, he has informed me that this is just simply moving the salary back to where it was initially set and not formally a raise. However, it's more money in their pockets.
Q: Would you like to see the mayor's salary of $25,000 per-year go up as well?
A: I would like to see the mayor's salary set somewhere at an average of the salaries that mayors elsewhere in this area receive. If you take the salary of Vidalia, Tallulah, and Rayville and average them out — that's what I would consider as a fair salary for a mayor.
Q: Another issue that has been controversial is the neglect of animals at the Winnsboro shelter. The city is currently under a criminal investigation over this. What will you do to aid the Louisiana State Police in their investigation?
A: I will make myself fully available and cooperate with them in every way.
Q: Do you think anyone should lose their job over this?
A: I think that neglect of animals is a serious matter. I don't know about someone losing a job. I would like to find out if there were procedures in place that someone did not follow. If there were no procedures put in place and an individual was simply put out there to perform these tasks, I think that individual should be strongly reprimanded.
Q: You have said that you have met with engineer and others and had discussions about infrastructure improvements. Who have you spoken with and what has been discussed?
A: I have spoken with many people and one thing I would like to see improved is the road to our industrial park. It's pretty hard to convince people to come into out area by just telling them what you are going to do —telling them that you will have a road to come into the area. If you have a road already in place, it's a selling point to encourage people to come.
One of our long term goals is to develop Turkey Creek Lake. To develop Turkey Creek Lake might involve annexing that part south of Winnsboro into our city limits to give us the authority to work on that project. I have spoken with our legislators about that area, however, they don't think there is money on the state level. There may be money on the federal level to help us to do this. If we are able to develop that lake, it would mean an economical boon for our area.
In addition to that, I would like to work really hard to acquire capital for a civics center.
Q: What specifically are you going to do to help bring more businesses and jobs to Winnsboro?
A: I think we have a lot to offer in bringing businesses here. Initially, our potential wasn't recognized until Walmart came to town. When Walmart came to town, they came in with a small Walmart store and we rapidly outgrew that store and they had to go to a super store. We learned at that time that surrounding parishes were coming to Walmart to shop here. McDonalds found an opportunity here because of the flow of people coming here. All of the different chains started coming here and became a vital part of our community.
As soon as they finish developing the area around St. Francisville, we will have a four-lane highway all the way to New Orleans. Because of the flow of traffic coming through, I think we can use this as a selling point to businesses.
We can't base all out efforts, however, on what's coming. We have to concentrate on what we already have.
I have learned that there are funds already in place from the USDA for a farmer's market. I believe a farmer's market would give us immediate access to thriving business. With the same theory that we are a hub for surrounding communities, we could build a first-class farmers' market with a beautiful parking area. I think that it would put a large number of people to work. I have been told that there is $100,00 available for this right now.