In the race for Police Jury District 9, incumbent Freddy Shewmake is being challenged in the October 24th election by Charles L. Gray. Mr. Gray wasn’t available to visit for this column; late last week he told me that he was just home from the hospital, and not up to talking about his candidacy before my deadline. We wish him a speedy return to good health.
Shewmake was available and discussed his background, starting with nearly 25 years in education in both Bossier Parish and Texas. He served as a coach, classroom teacher, and administrator in Bossier Parish schools – and as an education director in East Texas schools. Shewmake was the first head coach at Parkway High School, and he served as a principal at Bossier High School.
Shewmake is running for a second term as the District 9 representative, and he says, “This time has been wonderful …” compared to his Jury tenure two decades ago when the Parish had little in the way of funding to move needed improvements forward.
“We have a great team and we have some major projects; I want to assist the (Jury) staff,” he said of ongoing and planned projects.
Shewmake ticked off a list of those projects including the presently underway Parish-wide sewer initiative, extension of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway, a clean water project, and work on the much needed north-south traffic corridor (Swan Lake Road north).
“Bossier Parish is exploding,” Shewmake said. “That has brought about a lot of unique challenges to parish government.” He cited work to maintain and upgrade over 100 parish bridges and 800 miles of roads, as well as public safety aspects, and building a first class parish parks and recreation department to name a few.
Shewmake addressed how he views being a “city” juror on a body that is responsible for exclusively parish issues.
Saying he doesn’t really have any jurisdiction in the city and represents no rural areas, his “… approach as been sort of like an at-large person. I’ve tried to make sure I’m well-grounded and knowledgeable in both city and parish issues.”
Shewmake said that he has attended over 300 meetings during his nearly four years on the Jury, including those of the City and Parish Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) – “… Bossier City Council, and Bossier Parish School Board – every workshop, so I can feel I’m well-informed and cast votes that really count.”
He noted the increase in zoning issues with commercial, business and residential endeavors, saying “Rather than just be a rubber stamp, I want to be knowledgeable.”
Shewmake and wife Phyllis have two children, Tammy and Trey – and five grandchildren.
Shewmake’s seat is one of the only three of the Jury’s 12 seats to be contested in the October 24th election. In Police Jury District 4, first-term incumbent Sonny Cook is challenged by John Ed Jorden – who also ran for the seat in 2011, coming in third in a six-man race. Finally, the District 5 seat, currently held by first term incumbent Jack Scaggs, is opposed by former Jury member Barry Butler.
In the long run, that only three of the dozen Jury seats are challenged in this election says that either voters are satisfied with 75 percent of the Jury’s current members – or that they haven’t cared enough to follow the ambitious work of the Jury over the last four years.
In the shorter run, voters in the three contested Jury districts will want to closely study the work and representation of the incumbents and the assertions by their challengers to decide if a change is necessary in the Jury’s roll call roster for the next four years.
Early voting started Saturday, October 10, and runs through Saturday, October 17 at the Bossier Parish Registrar of Voters office at the Bossier Parish Courthouse in Benton. Voters who wish to skip early voting can visit their regular precinct on election day, Saturday, October 24.
It’s a long ballot; visit the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website to download a sample ballot for all the voting choices at your specific precinct.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.