Parish President Gordon Dove thinks the past 4 years have shown that he deserves the next 4 years of government leadership in Terrebonne.
Challenger David McCormick said he thinks the local economy is suffering and that he’s the right man to fix it and move our area forward.
Both incumbent and challenger took part in the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce’s first candidate forum on Monday night on the campus of Fletcher Technical Community College.
The debate was mostly free of mudslinging with each candidate sticking to the reasons why they’re the best option in the more than one-hour-long question and answer session.
Dove said his proven leadership and love for Terrebonne are why he’s above the competition.
McCormick said he believes he can make Terrebonne’s job market competitive — something he said has been lost in the economic downturn of the past several years.
ECONOMY A HEAVY TOPIC THROUGHOUT DEBATE
The local economy dominated Monday night’s debate with several questions focusing on different facets of the economy — the local downturn, chances for future growth, diversification and TEDA, among other things.
Dove painted a bright picture for Terrebonne’s future, saying that he thinks the local economy has a chance to get better in the near future, based on projections and things he’s seeing and hearing from business owners.
The area has lost thousands of jobs in the past half-decade and hundreds more in the past year, according to statistics, but Dove pointed to recent victories as signs of a comeback — namely Rouses moving headquarters from Lafourche to Terrebonne, which will create jobs and generate revenue.
The parish president also said he would “do anything” to support local business in Terrebonne. Dove said he meets with citizens with ambitions of starting a business and shows them a power point presentation about the benefits of opening up shop in Terrebonne.
“When someone is looking to start a business in Terrebonne Parish, they come to see me,” Dove said.
The Parish President said he’s also going to continue to work tirelessly to get further dredging done in the Houma Navigational Canal so that the local brown water shipbuilding industry can continue to take shape.
“I’ve brought industry into Terrebonne Parish,” Dove said. “I’ve done everything I can to create jobs.”
McCormick didn’t have as bright an outlook for the current job market locally, saying that he believes there’s a lot of room for improvements.
As a local high school teacher, McCormick said he believes the best way to create economic growth is through investing in the future workforce. Several times in the debate, McCormick mentioned plans to develop workforce training programs — a project he said would be a collaboration between parish government, the school system and the businesses in the area.
“I am tired of reading in the paper that our area is losing jobs while all other major areas in the state are gaining,” McCormick said. “That has to stop. We have lost thousands of jobs and those jobs represent opportunities for our sons, daughters, mothers and fathers.”
McCormick said another way he’d fight the economic downturn is through diversification. He said so many local businesses have millions and billions of dollars of equipment and infrastructure that are currently sitting idle while oil prices slump.
He said he’d work with some of those companies to see about getting them involved in other industries while waiting to generate revenue and keep them working.
The challenger used one example, saying that he’d like to see local companies get involved in wind energy.
By that, he emphasized that he wasn’t talking about having actual windmills here. But instead, he’d like to see local companies work to create windmill parts and ship them to locations where wind energy is used — all things he believes local companies already have the infrastructure in place to do.
“The growth and diversification of the Houma-Terrebonne economy will be my focus every day I’m in office,” McCormick said. “… This election is all about jobs.”
Both candidates said multiple times during the debate that they’d fight to support the local oil and gas industry — each calling it the No. 1 driving force of the economy.
RECREATION AND THE BAYOU COUNTRY SPORTS PARK
As a football coach, McCormick said he understands the importance of recreation in our area, adding that if he’s elected, he would work to boost recreation for people of all ages — including adults.
McCormick said he would like to see parish-owned docks placed on some local bayous so that Terrebonne can get involved in the kayaking — one of the fastest growing outdoors activities in the country.
McCormick said he meets with people all around the country, adding that “everyone knows about the fishing in Cocodrie.” He said more should be done to invest in and promote the outdoors industry in the state of Louisiana.
Dove said what Terrebonne Parish Recreation needs most is a continued push in the right direction. Dove said in the past 4 years, he’s worked to clean the department, which has had its share of negative press.
Dove said new TPR Director Roddy Lerille has been a worthwhile hire, and some of the spending oversight measures that have been implemented on recreation districts have turned around the department.
And then, there’s the Bayou Country Sports Park.
The Sports Park came up several times in the debate — a highly anticipated multi-sport complex that’s frustrated locals with its lack of funding and slow progress.
Each candidate expressed the importance of getting it completed in their watch.
Dove made a bold statement, emphasizing that he will get the park complete, if re-elected. He said slow progress has been made and baseball and soccer fields will soon be completed and locals will be playing on the fields.
Dove said having local tournaments played on the fields will be a huge economic boost — something Terrebonne “needs to have.”
“I will complete the Sportsplex,” Dove said. “We will find the money. We will complete it. We have been completing it. There’s avenues of selling property that the rec district doesn’t need and we can raise the money.”
McCormick agreed with Dove on the importance of the Complex, saying that he would explore every avenue to get it completed.
“Besides levees and drainage, this is the biggest project in Terrebonne Parish,” McCormick said. “The Sports Park is a great economic engine in Terrebonne Parish. It’s going to generate a lot of money for the economy. I believe that all options need to be looked at — whether it be grants or other funding — but (the park) needs to be done. It’s going to showcase Terrebonne Parish and the rec district. It’s going to bring a light into this area for youth sports programs. It just needs to be finished.”
SMALL DISAGREEMENTS IN AN OTHERWISE QUIET DEBATE
In a debate free from mudslinging, there were small, subtle disagreements between the men.
In his closing comments, Dove played on his political experience, saying that he believes he is better able to lead the parish going forward because of the relationships he’s made and the connections he’s built.
McCormick, to date, has never held political office.
“It’s not time for a learning curve,” Dove said. “We have to lift levees. We have to protect ourselves. We have $3 billion that we’re trying to get in Washington D.C. You don’t want to go there and let someone learn how to do it. You either know it or you don’t. And I’ve spent years doing it.”
McCormick hit Dove during questions about forming a relationship with the Terrebonne Parish Council.
McCormick said he wanted “alphas” in leadership positions, a play on some of Dove’s political critics who say that some parish government officials are too easy to agree with the administration at all times.
McCormick said he will not hold grudges against those who disagree with him and will work past those disagreements to try and secure a better, stronger Terrebonne Parish future.
“I’ve been collaborating with different people (my whole career),” McCormick said. “I’ll use coaching as an example. I want alphas. I don’t want people who see things the same way I see things. I want people who see things differently."