Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s first choice to be CAO lasted less than a week. Troy Bell resigned after media reports revealed he had a fraudulent resume.
So far, Broome’s next pick has gone over much better. Darryl Gissel, a real estate broker, investor and “collector of old buildings,” ran for mayor last year, garnering about 6% of the vote and carrying three precincts around LSU, Mid City and downtown. Gissel is a lifelong Republican but ran for mayor without a party label and endorsed Broome, a Democrat, in the runoff.
Gissel will be out front as Broome’s administration tackles crime, poverty, drainage and blight in its second year. But the 62-year-old stresses government can’t solve the parish’s problems alone.
“How do you get the community engaged in city government?” he says. “We have to make change exciting.” brgov.com
5 COMMUNITY ISSUES HE WILL HAVE A HAND IN THIS YEAR
1. Quality of place. Gissel fell in love with Spanish Town in 1981, when it was still one of the city’s most dilapidated neighborhoods. He’s played a role in the downtown resurgence that has happened since. “The rebirth of downtown [has shown] what we can do across the whole community.”
2. Crime. Baton Rouge’s new police chief will have to address residents’ fears—of crime, and in many cases, of law enforcement itself. “Wanting police reform does not mean that you’re anti-police,” Gissel says. “How do you create a system that helps the police do their job better, and how do you get the community to feel comfortable working with the police?”
3. Floodwater management. While residents often worry about drainage in certain areas when a new development is approved, 2016’s catastrophic flood highlights the need for a regional plan. The mayor’s office is reviewing drainage in the parish “holistically,” Gissel says, not just for East Baton Rouge, but for the surrounding areas. “How does it all fit together?”
4. Economic development. Gissel expects the parish to set up clear guidelines for industrial property tax exemptions, so manufacturers will know what to expect while taxpayers will be reassured that subsidized projects are creating jobs. He says large city-parish bid proposals can be broken up so smaller companies, including woman- and minority-owned firms, will have a chance to land those contracts.
5. Responsiveness. Gissel recalls a conversation with a resident who had been trying for a year to get a pothole fixed. “He said, ‘Why can’t the city be like Morris Bart: One call, that’s all,’” Gissel says. “I’m the one who’s supposed to make it ‘One call, that’s all.’”
Click here to read about the rest of the People To Watch in 2018.
This article was originally published in theJanuary 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.