Morgan City mayoral hopefuls state cases at forum
By JAMES A. ROBICHAUX
Five candidates for the position of mayor of Morgan City spoke this morning at a breakfast forum held by the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce at the Morgan City Petroleum Club.
Lee Dragna, Kevin Voisin, Bart Mancuso, Larry Bergeron and Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi, in that order, each spoke for 10 minutes.
All spoke about having reliable electricity for the city.
Dragna spoke of his background in business and the oil industry, and he said he wants to get more oil businesses to return to the area, stating that he knew of one company that wants to locate in the area.
Through his business, he said he frequently speaks to leaders of other businesses who have a desire to return to Morgan City, but say that they have trouble doing so.
“They tell me, ‘Lee, we would love to come to Morgan City.’ The main thing is that they want out of Fourchon,” he said, but do not “get recruited to Morgan City” and “can’t get help with housing.”
“Who better to help with that than a person who deals with them daily?”
Dragna also said that he wants to improve activities for youth.
“We have a public swimming pool that is opened two months out of the year,” he said, adding that he would like to add a park for skaters and skateboarders. He also wants to dig a pond on donated land and stock it with fish so that children and adults could catch and release fish there.
“The city has good people. They just need a little bit better leadership,” he said.
“All of these candidates here are good people.”
Voisin, chairman of the St. Mary Parish council, spoke of his family and his background in the insurance business.
“City Hall belongs to the people. I want everyone to feel welcome there to come discuss any problems,” he said.
“Additionally, I would strive to keep my city clean throughout the year, not simply for special occasions,” he said.
Mancuso spoke and described his family’s presence in the educational and medical fields, and he too, spoke about his family.
“The community in which you live has a lot of influence on children,” he said.
“I attended Shannon Elementary, graduated from Morgan City High School in 1970, and graduated from LSU in 1974. I was employed by the city as the director of recreation and culture until my retirement in February,” Mancuso said.
“I guess the biggest reason I want to become mayor is that I love the city. I want to give back. I want to make the city better. It can become better,” he said.
Mancuso spoke of how working with previous mayors has affected him.
“I worked under four mayors, Brownell, LaFleur, Matte and Tregle. I’ve been very fortunate, because all of these gentlemen have been very good leaders, and I’ve learned a lot of managerial skills and philosophy from these fellows,” he said.
Mancuso said that he is proud of the development at Lake End Park.
“We’ve taken it from an overgrown eyesore in the 1970s to one of the finest parks in the state,” he said.
He also described himself as a “fiscal conservative.”
“I can’t stand when public money is wasted,” Mancuso said.
Bergeron was the fourth speaker, and he touted his business background and his time as the city’s chief administrative officer.
“There is a perceived wall around City Hall, and I propose to knock that wall down,” he said.
“We need to spend more time and monies for a reliable utility system.”
He cautioned about how focusing on economic development might have drawbacks.
“We talk about economic development, but we also have to help the people who are in town already,” Bergeron said.
“We usually talk about bringing in people from out of town, but on occasion we find that this might compete with people in town.”
He also spoke of the need for a “ticket system for anyone who litters” and a pool for “aqua rehabilitation” for those who have experienced surgery or injuries.
Grizzaffi was the final speaker, who spoke of his attendance of council meetings since his failed effort at the mayor’s office in 2008.
“I didn’t go to council meetings to critique their decisions. I went to the council meetings to learn how the city operates and to get a better understanding of government,” he said.
“I’ve watched Mayor Matte deal with unprecedented events in the last four years. We’ve had a catastrophic electrical outage, we’ve had major floods, and we’ve had hurricanes. You have to deal with the pressure, you have to be able to speak in public, you have to deal with the media, you have to convey information to the public, and that’s a very important factor to becoming mayor,” Grizzaffi said.
He also spoke of his desire to rework the city’s budget and of how departments see their work.
“I’m looking at our city’s budget licking our chops. Some people look at things as a service. I look at them as a business,” he said.
Grizzaffi said that the “number one theme here is housing,” speaking of the problems that new businesses face in finding housing for workers.
“We can’t expect things to fall in our lap anymore. Neighboring cities are patting us on the back while they’re stealing our people. Soon, they’ll be stealing our businesses, and it will be too late to respond,” he said.
“Appearance is important. People come to my store all the time and ask ‘where’s a good subdivision?’ I don’t have a good answer for them,” he said.
He also spoke of the need for more ordinance and zoning enforcement.
“We need to protect home values. Cost of living is a big issue,” Grizzaffi said.
Candidates for city council were also in attendance: Drew Clement and incumbent Tim Hymel for District 1, Barry Dufrene running unopposed for District 2, Charlie Pratt and incumbent Rev. Ron Bias for District 3, Ron Berry and James Fontenot for District 4 (being vacated as incumbent Larry Bergeron seeks the mayor’s job), and Mack Bruno and incumbent Lou Tamporello for District 5.
The event was sponsored by AT&T and Hampton Inn & Suites.