New decade places local governments on brink of change or status quo

The year 2020 will undoubtedly be a historic year for Monroe, as it appears that the leadership of several government entities will potentially be infused with new leadership. With new leadership comes new ideas, enthusiasm, and possibly direction.

OUACHITA PARISH SCHOOLS: The death of The Reverend John L. Russell, who represented the Black community on the school board for 33 years, means a new voice for the community will be heard. Russell was a known quantity, but later this year, a replacement will be elected. Russell focused heavily on improvements to the physical plants of schools that serve minorities in the parish. The new board member will need to focus attention on the fact that the academic performance of most predominately minority schools in the parish is less than acceptable.

MONROE CITY SCHOOLS: The Monroe City Schools will change leadership next week. That decision will impact the direction of the district. With a five-member Black majority, the leadership has to tackle a plethora of problems: All Southside schools perform less than basic on its assessment, 2) Expanding pre-school availability 3) Renewal of Superintendent’s contract 4) Equity in the assignment of qualified teachers to failing schools. Four of the seven members have expressed interest in the leadership. Two of them, Betty Cooper and B.J. Johnson, are passionate about the four concerns. The other two: Jennifer Haneline and Daryl Berry, are concerned about many of the problems, but unity and peace on the board rank high among their priorities. The new president will set the direction for the district for the next decade.

CITY OF MONROE: Three new members on the Monroe City Council will influence the policies and budget direction of the city. Veteran council members Eddie Clark and Kenneth Wilson chose not to seek re-election, and Micheal Echols was elected State Representative. The two remaining veterans: Gretchen Ezernak and Juanita Woods, are projected to face serious challenges, which could conceivably mean that the entire city council could change. Mayor Jamie Mayo, already the longest-serving mayor, is expected to have challengers as well. Mayo is promising to continue in his 18-year path. If any of his challengers are successful and the council changes as well, the city will be headed for a different direction, or at the least an altered course.

TOWN OF RICHWOOD: All seats on the Richwood Board of Aldermen are up for election as well as the office of Mayor. Richwood’s mayor is expected to face a challenge from former Mayor Edward Harris, who wants to expand Richwood’s growth, claiming that all of the resources the Town now enjoys were the result of his initiatives, which were controversial at the time. Mayor Brown points to balanced budgets and increased revenues and stability as his main achievements. The Aldermen candidates either support the status quo or will be inclined to support changes leading to a new direction.

With so many possible changes in the air, the year 2020 promises to be filled with challenges that will either stay the course or point the entire community in new directions.