St. Martinville – Allan “Sprinky” Durand takes over as city attorney in the second Nelson administration, replacing Greg Hardy, who held the position for nearly a decade.
The only other change as the mayor and council were sworn in for a new term last week was in the position of mayor pro tempore, presiding officer in the absence of the mayor. District 1 City Councilman Mike Fuselier passed the job to District 2 Councilman Craig Prosper.
Both Fuselier and Prosper were elected without opposition last March. Mayor Thomas Nelson, District 3 Councilman Dennis Paul Williams, and Councilman Ronald Charles of District 4 handily beat opponents. Only District 5’s Arthur Champ had to slug it out in a runoff, ultimately defeating former Councilman Romanus “Ike” Robertson.
Nelson, in his state-of-the-city address, attributed the electorate’s apparent content to both promises and peace kept.
“We don’t wash our dirty laundry in public,” Nelson said.
He ticked off a number of improvements accomplished during his first term, and he gave the credit to the council for rising above racial and socioeconomic differences and putting foremost the best interests of the city as a whole.
•Overwhelming passage of a penny sales tax just in time to make up for a $425,000 revenue shortfall when Walmart moved to Broussard.
•A citywide resurfacing project.
•Marked improvements in the police department.
•Settlement of an EPA suit that has been hanging over the city.
•Near realization of former Mayor Eric Martin’s dream of RV slots, and maybe even a hotel, on the old J.B. Talley property near downtown.
•Progress made in alleviating the high cost of electricity.
•A salary hike for city workers for the first time in eight years.
One by one, council members seconded the mayor’s assertion that the most important improvement, the one that paved the way for the others, was in relations between racially and socioeconomically diverse districts. Mandated by the U.S. Justice Department to have two predominately black districts, two predominately white districts and one that could go either way (Williams’ District 3) the council was at loggerheads for years.
“I’ve noticed a tremendous change in atmosphere,” said Williams, who was appointed to the post before winning in the election four years ago.
“I have never seen the harmony we have here,” said Fuselier, who has served the downtown district for decades.
“I see St. Martinville flourishing like it never did before in two or three years,” said Champ.
“We coordinate our ideas so they benefit the city as a whole,” Charles said.
Prosper said he has witnessed “the council and mayor uniting to fight for your rights.”
“It’s a testament to what you guys are doing in the city for you to all get re-elected,” said Parish President Guy Cormier, who dropped by to witness the swearing-in ceremony. “I’ve seen signs of progress that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
State District Judge Paul deMahy administers the oath of office to Mayor Thomas Nelson.