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[OPINION] Chris Smith: Change Is Coming…Not Just For South Bossier But For All Of Bossier

Chris Smith – Bossier City Councilman Elect At Large

Chris Smith: Special to the Press-Tribune

March 20th was a defining day in Bossier City history. The voters showed up in record numbers to cast their vote for the next four years in Bossier City. And the results spoke for themselves. Three challengers faced long term incumbents and won. And in the case of District 5, an incumbent retired.

For the first time in 16 years, Bossier City will have a new face as its Chief Executive Officer, in Mayor-Elect Tommy Chandler. Joining him will be Vince Maggio in District 5 and myself, Chris Smith, in one of the At Large seats. Still to be determined will be who will hold the District 1 seat that represents a large portion of South Bossier.

The unusual spot we find ourselves in is in District 1. The winner of that race, Shane Cheatham, has been selected to be Mayor-Elect Tommy Chandler’s CAO. So the council will appoint an interim councilmember until the voters select who their new councilmember will be in October.

A lot has been said about Cheatham stepping down from a seat he won but never actually took and I hope to clear the air.

During the Bossier City campaign, and honestly it happens in a lot of campaigns at other levels, there was a lot of rhetoric about being “fiscally conservative” and “running Bossier as a business.” If we look at it through that lens we can see why Shane Cheatham being appointed CAO makes a lot of sense.

I, myself, run a small business here in Bossier City. When my business partners and I decided to embark on the journey of entrepreneurship we had to trust each other. We were putting up a lot of money and time. If the experiment failed we would lose thousands. We also had to put people around us to help run the business. To grow we couldn’t just rely on ourselves. We needed help. But adding the right people around us was crucial. We needed to know that we could trust them. We had to vet applicants and make sure they were the right person to fill that role. We did find those people but it took time.

Similarly, Mayor-Elect Chandler has had to do the same thing as he has built out his team and his administration. He has had to put different applicants through a series of interviews and meetings. He has had to carefully vet each applicant.

And most importantly, he has had to have confidence that he could trust them.

My business doesn’t have the staff or even the budget of most of the departments within the city. But when it came to staffing my business I didn’t skip any steps and took the vetting process as serious as a CEO with a business the size of Bossier City would have. I knew I had to get that right. I knew I needed people I could trust if I wanted to see success.

For the Mayor-Elect to head up a budget and employee base the size of Bossier City, he needs to know that the directors of each department are people that he trust to manage their pool of talent. He also needs to know that his CAO, and one of the most important positions in his administration, is someone that can help him see his agenda through.

He picked Shane Cheatham for that very reason. Shane is someone he is confident knows what the job entails. He is someone that he feels is qualified for the job. And most importantly he is someone that has earned the trust of the Mayor-Elect. As will be the case with any department head he puts up for confirmation.

The Mayor-Elect will either succeed or fail. There is no in-between. The voters, by a 12 point victory, were willing to give him that chance. As a council, we should listen to the voters of Bossier City and confirm the person the Mayor-Elect believes will help him succeed and carry out his agenda.

By doing so, South Bossier doesn’t get a victory lap for having one of their own in the CAO seat and neither does North Bossier. Confirming Shane Cheatham is a win for all of Bossier City as the Mayor-Elect gets to feel comfortable with the team he believes is right. We trusted the voters to get us this far, we should continue to trust them and let the Mayor-Elect build out his team as he sees fit.

Bossier City voters sent a mandate to city government – that change is needed.  Now is the time to put politics aside and embrace progress.  If the city chooses progress over playing politics, all of Bossier City wins.

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