Darryl Gissel (I)

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Do you believe Baton Rouge has a race problem, and if so what 2 steps would you take as mayor in your first year to address it? 

The problem is a divide issue. It’s absolutely prevalent. There’s a real lack of service on the north end of the city. North Baton Rouge has been underserved especially with regard to healthcare. The question is, are the services not there, or do people not know how to access the services? Either way, people feel like the government is not serving them. The nature of politics is that it is divisive, and it makes issues worse.

And also, we don’t have a way to discuss issues. When I worked on projects to help bring downtown Baton Rouge back, I learned a lot about the history of our community and about how people were told by their parents that they were never allowed to come to downtown Baton Rouge again after the lunch counter city sit-ins on Third Street. And we filled in the City Park swimming pool. So, there’s an undercurrent.

We have issues, but we’re a great community, and I think people want to be together. A mayor’s key job is to convene people and pull everyone in from all different sides—call it an arbitrator. I’m a lifelong Republican, but I’m running as a no-party candidate because I don’t think you can lead a divided city with a big party label over your head. I’m trying to garner votes in every part of the community, not just one, and that’s important.

East Baton Rouge Parish and its residents were severely impacted by the August floods. What specific ideas do you have to rebuild our community and strengthen its people?

At some point, it’s going to be imperative to have a point person in East Baton Rouge Parish to lead the recovery and to keep people in all sectors from business to real estate to key community leaders engaged. We need to avoid government silos. There need to be planning sessions in different quadrants of the city. In the rebuilding, we have the ability to correct things like infrastructure, planning and housing.

In order for you to consider your first term as mayor a success, what is the No. 1 thing you hope to have accomplished?

End the community divide, which will help resolve some of those longstanding problems like traffic and crime. We need to form a crisis team of business people and community leaders coming together, a community entity that can push solutions. We have to break through some of those blockades. That’s part of the mayor’s job to pull people together. I also want to see city agencies reach into the city to find community partners who can help fulfill the mission of the city. Also, the mayor really needs to work with Metro Council to find tools that can help empower district like better crime stats, 311 reports and better technology.

His background:

Real estate broker and investor. Former special assistant to Gov. Dave Treen and director of the Louisiana Republican Party.

Has never run for public office but was a special assistant to former Gov. Dave Treen and director of the Louisiana Republican Party from 1988-1993. One of the early investors to spearhead the revival of Spanish Town, Baton Rouge’s oldest neighborhood.

Running without a party label to avoid partisan divides. Says schools, traffic and criminal justice are most pressing priorities. Would use the mayor-president’s office to “bring people together, make sure every voice is heard and put pressure on them to join and make something happen.” Says politicians usually “have one eye on the next office they run for” but pledges never to run for another position. Opposes St. George incorporation but hopes to address the frustrations behind it.