SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A new mayor of Shreveport was inaugurated alongside a newly installed city council Saturday morning. Before he took the oath of office, he gave a glimpse of what city leadership under Mayor Tom Arceneaux would look like.
Arceneaux visited NBC 6 for a candid conversation about his plans as mayor, working with the city council, and how he will tackle the multitude of issues facing Shreveport.
“It’s really a wonderful opportunity to serve the people of Shreveport, which is really what my heart’s desire is, to make this a better place,” Arceneaux said. “I’m very excited about the opportunity. I’ve met with council members, and I look forward to a good relationship with them and to moving forward with the city. But it’s a great opportunity to serve the people.”
Throughout the campaign, crime was a hot topic. When Arceneaux and the new city council are sworn in on Saturday, there will be fewer homicides in Shreveport than last year, but there is much work to be done to handle violent crime in the city.
“I have already had a couple of meetings with the police chief about the initiatives that are ongoing with the Shreveport Police Department and also about some ideas that I have. We’re trying to work in some policy changes. Those need to be visible. The people not only need to be safe, they need to feel safe.”
Arceneaux said one way to ensure that the public understands all that is being done to keep them safe – better communication.
“In meeting with Chief Smith, there are quite a number of things that are going on that most people are not aware of in terms of collecting guns and some of the intervention activities they’ve gone into. So I’m really encouraged by the leadership in the police force.”
A winter storm in 2021 and the 2022 December deep freeze left Shreveport residents with low or no water and questions about the quality of the city’s infrastructure. Arceneaux again stressed the need for better communication from city hall to the city’s people.
“I’m thankful that the boil advisory has been lifted; that’s a good thing. Not sure we did as good a job of communicating about the boil advisory and getting some of the word out as we possibly could have.”
Arceneaux noted that the leadership and staff at the Department of Water and Sewer were focused on restoration more than communication which he said he understood.
“The infrastructure is old, and the choices we have really are do we want to spend millions and millions on that, or do we end up with a problem like this every couple of years.”
When asked if he would consider presenting a bond proposal to cover the high cost of revitalizing a crumbling infrastructure Arceneaux said he would not bring forth a bond proposal until the city reestablished trust with citizens.
“We have to earn their trust, and once we earn their trust, then I think we can do that.”
Arceneaux, a former city council member and city attorney said there are a couple of bond options that he could consider, but the choice will need to make sense fiscally. He said he would like to look at lessons from the winter storm of 2021 and this year’s deep freeze to determine what could be done in the long and short term to avoid city-wide water issues in the future.
He was complimentary of the Director of Water and Sewer, William Daniel, saying he asked Daniel to stay on as the department’s head once his administration takes office. Arceneaux said other than changes to the finance director, CAO, and city attorney; he does not expect to make more department leadership changes in the forseeable future.
The transition team, Arceneaux said, will be in place for about 90 days to provide ideas and public input to help shape his agenda as mayor.
A 13% raise for city employees passed by the council in January is another issue that the Arceneaux administration will have to take on – specifically, securing the funds to sustain the pay increase.
“The information that we have gotten from the administration is that in most instances, we’ll have to find additional funding sources to sustain that raise. So yes, that’s a huge concern, and hopefully, we’ll reach some consensus with the city council about how to deal with that. It’s something we need to deal with soon it’s not a short-term problem. We can make it through this year, but city budget calls for spending more money than we’re taking in this year, and you can’t do that very often.”
Arceneaux plans to rebuild trust through direct communication with the citizens. He says he plans to have regular press conferences and use personal relationships to keep the public informed. Admitting that he would not be able to accommodate every request for his time or attention, he said he would communicate more openly.
“I feel like part of my job is to communicate with the public. One of the best ways to communicate with the public is to communicate with the media.”