Political novices face off in Morgan City mayoral race

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One of two candidates with no previous working government experience will become the next mayor of Morgan City.

Rising above a field that included a former city administrator, a one-time municipal recreation and cultural director and a city councilman, candidates Lee Dragna and Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi claimed the top two spots from the Nov. 6 primary election. The businessmen turned political hopefuls, each claiming no party affiliation, will now meet on the Dec. 8 Election Day.

Primary election results saw Grizzaffi secure 1,884 ballots for 35 percent of the popular vote. Dragna obtained 1,015 votes for 19 percent of the ballots cast.

Remaining votes were spread among a field of three Democrats.

Larry Bergeron worked 19 years as administrator of Morgan City and served four mayors. His bid for the top executive position saw him gather 896 votes for 17 percent of the field.

Bart Mancuso worked 37 years as Recreation and Culture Director for Morgan City. He was able to secure 749 votes for approximately 14 percent share of the ballots.

Morgan City Council Chairman Kevin Voisin is a four-term councilman who made his bid for mayor and gathered slightly more than 14 percent of the vote with 768 ballots.

Dragna, 39, is founder of LAD Cos., and owner of several business interests in the oil and maritime industries. He launched his campaign by stating that Morgan City had become overloaded with governmental nepotism that stalled development.

“I think the voters are tired of the same old thing and want something new,” he said. “They want something more business oriented than politically oriented.”

Dragna said he learned during the primary election that people will tell a candidate he has their vote, but that might not become true. “The first time around you kind of take people’s word for what is going on,” he said, “but now we understand what people we need to target. There were three people that did not make it to the runoff so I have to target their votes.”

Dragna promised a proactive approach to increase development and quality of life opportunities for Morgan City.

“First, we need to develop land for new housing,” Dragna said regarding his priorities if elected. “With that includes fixing some of the levee problems we have. Second, we need to promote more business in Morgan City, especially in the oil business.”

Grizzaffi, 46, is a third-generation family business owner who traces his Morgan City roots back 140 years. He entered the first round of this race as a business owner who said his qualifications included experience based on living in the economy. A trait he said offers an understanding that cannot be gained by being isolated behind government walls.

Grizzaffi unsuccessfully sought the mayor’s office in 2008.

“I’m not making any promises, but respecting the process,” Grizzaffi said as he agreed that being political outsiders are pluses for both him and Dragna.

Grizzaffi said his strength comes in operations. “There is not a lot of money in Morgan City to do a lot of capital spending,” he said. “Therefore, we are going to do things differently in terms of customer service, where we spend money and how we make priorities. We have some big ticket items to address, like the [Federal Emergency Management Agency] flood elevation fight. We need that to build our first subdivision in a long time. We had no housing construction permits issued this past year and that is not good news for growth. We’ve got to correct the housing problem in our town.”

“What separates us is we would be equal on handling revenue and expenses,” Grizzaffi continued, “but thinking in terms of politics, I understand it requires you not to work at as fast a pace as you would in private business. What I’ve done is watch the current administration in how it goes about making decisions. I think I can use that as a learning curve.”

Grizzaffi said in terms of differences between him and Dragna, his having worked directly in customer service gives him understanding in how he must rely on the people of Morgan City to accomplish goals. “I’m not depending on overseas work or what’s outside in the oil field,” Grizzaffi said. “I depend on the citizens themselves for my wellbeing. I think the relationship I have with the community is already built. They trust me as a businessman and the votes show they trust me as their next mayor.”

Both runoff candidates voiced desire for change. Each claimed to be prepared to manage 238 employees and a proposed $36.5 million budget for 2013 in this city of 12,000 residents.

Dragna and Grizzaffi are each seeking the role that current Mayor Tim Matte will leave upon completion of his second four-year span on a two-term limit.

Dragna and Grizzaffi