By Stacey Tinsley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ chief of staff, and Bossier native, Mark Cooper told South Bossier residents the state is on solid footing during a special luncheon Wednesday.
In Louisiana, the governor’s chief of staff has traditionally played a powerful role in guiding the state’s policies and politics. Cooper said he found Edwards to be down-to-earth, and was impressed with Edwards’ leadership.
“It doesn’t matter to me whether you are a Republican or Democrat,” Cooper said. “My goal is to help the citizens of Louisiana.”
Cooper said since Gov. Edwards has taken office, Louisiana is now on solid footing and improvements have been made.
“In the last 3.5 years, that state has taken, through a bipartisan effort, a $2 billion deficit to now [have] a $300 million surplus. That’s a positive thing,” he noted.
Cooper pointed out that TOPS is fully funded and that after 10 years of cuts, higher education has not seen any decrease in state funding.
“The list goes on and on,” Cooper said. “Those are very positive things that are going on that have not existed for the last 10 years because the economy has not been doing very well. When Gov. Edwards came in, the unemployment rate was above six percent, it’s now about 3.9 percent. “
Cooper has years of experience in disasters, having previously served as head of Louisiana’s disaster management agency as well as experience with riots, earthquakes and fires in California. Most recently, he was the senior director of global emergency management for Walmart.
Cooper served under former, Gov. Bobby Jindal, as executive director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. That position placed him as a close adviser to Jindal during hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, the BP oil spill in 2010, and other disasters and preparation needs the state experienced between 2008 and 2011.
But Cooper noted that Gov. Edwards has not had it easy with several disasters hitting early during his time in office.
“Coming into a job and only a couple of months later you have the first round of flooding, then several months later you have major flooding down in south Louisiana, I think he performed extremely well. So I was very impressed,” Cooper said. “This governor has encountered a lot of major issues when he came into office. A $2 billion deficit, that is a major hurdle for any governor walking into. So it wasn’t only the disasters or police shootings.”
Even though Cooper worked in California and Arkansas, he considers himself a proud Louisianan and proud graduate of Parkway High School and LSU.
“In everything that I have achieved, all my success goes back to this community. And I owe so much to my upbringing and growing up in this community,” he said. “I know this is teacher appreciation week and all of us have had teachers who have impacted our lives. In all of the places that we have lived, I’ve always tried to find that south Bossier school experience for our kids. And we have never found that.”
Born in South Dakota, Cooper and his family moved to Bossier City when he was young. His father retired from Barksdale Air Force Base but died a short time later, when Cooper was just 12. He added that his mother felt the family had become a part of in Bossier City so much that she decided they would stay here.
“Being a military family and having parts of my family back East, it was my teachers and coaches that became my extended family. I owe a lot to you because you all kept me on the straight and narrow. I just wanted to tell you, ‘Thank you,’ because I could have gone a much different path,” Cooper said.