Profiling the Louisiana Senate Dist. 37 candidates

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Louisiana Sen. Barrow Peacock, left, and candidate Debbie Hollis, right.

[Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series profiling candidates in local elections coming up this fall.]

In the Oct. 12 election, Bossier residents will vote on State Senator for District 37. 

Voters will choose between incumbent Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City) and Debbie Hollis (I-Shreveport).

Senator Barrow Peacock has served in the Louisiana State Senate since January 2012. 

He is a husband, a father to three boys and is an investment manager.  He is also a member of First Methodist Church, Shreveport. 

He has a B.A. in Business from Southern Methodist University and an M.B.A. from LSU, Baton Rouge.  

He is also a current member of the Bossier Lions Club, serves as chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee and is a member of the Agriculture, Commerce and Labor Committees.

Before he was elected to the State Senate, he served on several non-profit boards.

1. Why do you want to be a State Senator for the 37th Senatorial District? 

I want to continue to serve because I want our state to realize its true potential and we need to make changes that will lead to a prosperous economy and will create jobs so our citizens will be able to support their families and enjoy living in the Great State of Louisiana. My votes have been with the intention to represent the vast majority of the citizens of Bossier City and Shreveport.  If you review my voting record, it will demonstrate a pro-family and a pro-job stance. If we do not make the changes necessary that will result in a more free market economy in the State of Louisiana, our economy will never produce the private sector jobs that will result in a growing tax base that provides the funding for our education, healthcare, public safety, transportation and other vital services that are provided by our state government.

2. Tell me what your priorities will be for our area if elected? 

We must invest in infrastructure and find a reoccurring source of revenue. We must address our tax structure in our state that allows us to complete with our sister states and grow private sector jobs. We have to manage our retirement systems and ensure their future funding and stability for retirees and current employees.  We must make informed changes for new hires to meet the needs of the future that is going to be demanded by the workers of tomorrow.

3.  There are several issues that are important to Bossier residents. Transportation, education, economic development, infrastructure. How will you go about ensuring that these are addressed and not cut due to state funding issues?

In order to make sure these issues are funded, we need a growing economy in our state.  We need private sector jobs in our state which will lead to a growing tax base so funding will be available to provide for transportation, education, health care and other vital services.

4. Our delegation has been vital to ensuring NWLA receives funding for projects here in Bossier. What are your plans to work with other fellow legislators to ensure that NWLA continues to receive funding? 

We are only successful when we work together and come to an agreement.  This comes from having open lines of communications and dialogue with not only the Northwest delegation but also with legislators from across Louisiana.  Fighting leads to people being hurt; working together leads to success for our community and State.

5. Why should someone vote for you?

Voters should vote for me because I’ve worked to be responsive to the needs of Bossier City, not just legislatively but also on constituent services. Our office has been contacted 24,009 times and growing since Jan. 9, 2012. I study and review the legislation. I do my best to make an informed decision based on the information that is provided and I am willing to make adjustments and changes as needed when circumstances change.  I take my job very seriously. I am always prompt to meetings, attend all committees on which I am asked to serve and am on the Senate floor making sure Senate District 37 is represented and its vote is cast on issues before the Louisiana Senate.

6. We all know one of the biggest projects in your district in Bossier Parish is the Jimmie Davis Bridge. Do you want to say anything about that?

I secured in the Capital Outlay Bill, House Bill 2, $23,991,700.00 for a new Jimmie Davis Bridge. These funds will be used as the state match with funds from the Federal Government to build a new bridge. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has stated that the bid process for a new bridge is scheduled to be let in July 2020. I will not be satisfied until a new bridge is complete and we are driving across the Red River on it.

In addition, capital outlay funds have been secured and allocated for Bossier Parish Community College, buildings at the Cyber Innovation Park and lights on Barksdale Boulevard as well as the new entrance into Barksdale Air Force Base which will allow for future growth of the most important asset we have for our community, Barksdale Air Force Base.

Debbie Hollis has served northwest Louisiana for decades, working in economic development, social services, and the nonprofit sector. 

She graduated from Centenary College with a B.A. in Art and Visual Culture, and is married to Alan Dyson. They have four adult children.

Debbie is a founding board member of Works In Progress Louisiana, the Shreveport-Bossier OWL Sexuality Education Program, and the N.O.W. – Shreveport/Bossier Chapter. She served on Gov. Blanco’s Women’s Commission, Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler’s Women’s Commission, and is a longtime contributor/advisor for the Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Legislative Agenda for Women, and Louisiana’s National Organization for Women statewide organization.

In 2018, she was selected for candidate training by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and is a member of the 2019-2020 CompassPoint HIVE Leadership Development Program for emerging leaders in the field of reproductive health, rights and justice.

1. Why do you want to be a State Senator for the 37th Senatorial District?

State Senate District 37 includes roughly 65,000 registered voters living in north Bossier, downtown Bossier, “Old Bossier,” and south past Sligo Road. The District also extends over the Red River via three separate bridges to include new residential developments in south Shreveport, the historic Broadmoor, South Highlands, and Highland neighborhoods, downtown Shreveport, and a portion of Shreveport’s northernmost industrial district. Add in Barksdale Air Force Base, a handful of state highways, an interstate highway, and multiple college campuses, and you begin to appreciate the elegant tapestry of Senate District 37. Our district is culturally and geographically diverse – and its constituents deserve a state senator who represents and respects this diversity. Since 1990, I have been a college student, a working mom, a community servant, a creative professional, and a small business advisor in District 37. These varied experiences, coupled with the important relationships I have cultivated here over the years, make me uniquely qualified to serve as this region’s State Senator.

2. Tell me what your priorities will be for our area if elected?

My top priority as State Senator will be addressing the issue of poverty in our district. The United Way of Northwest Louisiana recently released their 2019 ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed) Report which documents the number of households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living for the state — 53% of Caddo Parish households and 46% of Bossier Parish households are living in poverty or ALICE. This is the core issue that affects crime, quality of life, education, and economic development in District 37.

I will fully support the equality and equal treatment of all citizens in our district – both in the workplace and in their day-to-day lives.

Real economic development has been a priority to me for many years. Having worked in the economic development sector in Shreveport in the ‘90s, I have seen firsthand how our region is marketed to companies around the world. Our professional economic developers don’t demand living wages for our working neighbors, and they don’t adequately nurture our homegrown businesses. Our elected officials and community leaders actually funneled BP settlement money to an interstate connector through a residential neighborhood, rather than investing in our existing crumbling infrastructure. This toxic combination of low wages, urban sprawl, and helping people drive past our cities instead of through them weakens our tax base, contributes to growing crime rates, and accelerates population decline. These poor decisions negatively affect all of us in District 37. I will work to create small-business-friendly state policies, and propose legislation that will allow our labor force to earn a living wage here in Northwest Louisiana.

I will also work to fully support public education, teachers and students in our district. I will work to repeal the Jindal-era mistake of awarding taxpayer funding to charter schools that are managed by for-profit companies, and I will work with educators and seasoned educational professionals to implement proven, successful policies in our Louisiana public school system.

3.  There are several issues that are important to Bossier residents. Transportation, education, economic development, infrastructure. How will you go about ensuring that these are addressed and not cut due to state funding issues?

I will work to educate our local taxing authorities regarding the benefits of rescinding ITEP tax exemptions for big corporations; these tax dollars should be collected and used to fund public education and infrastructure maintenance in District 37. I will tap into the existing knowledge base of our regional urban planners, community developers and budget experts to learn how to wisely minimize state spending and maximize revenue in a manner that will be beneficial to all the constituents in our district – especially our working families and small businesses. Innovative, creative budget reform measures are necessary in Baton Rouge now more than ever.

4. Our delegation has been vital to ensuring NWLA receives funding for projects here in Bossier. What are your plans to work with other fellow legislators to ensure that NWLA continues to receive funding?

I am personal friends with several members of our NWLA Legislative delegation, and our existing friendships will carry over into our working relationship in the State Legislature. I value input from constituents, and I know that it is crucial to the process of allocating funding to necessary projects and programs. My campaign committee, clients, community partners, friends and neighbors are politically diverse, so I am accustomed to working across political divides to achieve outcomes that benefit our entire community. This method of bringing diverse ideas to the table, considering all options, and utilizing our collective wisdom & bargaining power will prove to be beneficial when we, as a delegation, work together to bring state funding back home to Northwest Louisiana.

5. Why should someone vote for you?

The people who live in Senate District 37 should vote for me because I am a dedicated community servant, a hardworking champion of our local workforce, and a compassionate person who works every day to make Northwest Louisiana a better place to live for all people.

6. We all know one of the biggest projects in your district in Bossier Parish is the Jimmie Davis Bridge. Do you want to say anything about that?

At the eleventh hour of our last Legislative session, our current District 37 Senator authored an amendment to a bill that specifically allocated BP settlement funding to the Jimmie Davis Bridge replacement project. He chose to take a gamble on federal funding to build an interstate connector through a growing residential neighborhood, rather than following the advice of DOTD and the wishes of his constituents. We have known for five years that the crumbling Jimmie Davis Bridge needs to be replaced. The studies have been completed, the recommendations have been made, and the project is shovel-ready. Our current District 37 Senator owns property in the Allendale neighborhood where the interstate connector is to be built; therefore, he stands to profit from the sale of his property if the interstate connector is built there. A true representative of the people would have taken the $100 million settlement, and replaced the bridge.