To start the new year, the Shreveport-Bossier Journal is publishing a series of stories this week on Shreveport’s new mayor, Tom Arceneaux. In today’s finale’, Tony Taglavore writes about his conversation with the mayor.
One hour, six minutes, 55 seconds.
That’s how much time Tom Arceneaux gave me a couple of weeks ago.
I’ve had people refuse to give me the time of day, much less an hour. And they were doing much less than preparing to become mayor of Shreveport.
“I will try to be as efficient with your time as possible,” I said, at the start of our conversation.
“I have plenty of time, Tony. Don’t worry.”
Remember, this was after the election — just more than a week before Arceneaux took office. There weren’t any votes to be won. And he certainly didn’t have plenty of time. Since surprising many by defeating an African-American democrat and state senator on December 10th, the 71-year-old had spent pretty much every waking hour wrapping his brain around the city government of which he is now in charge.
But Arceneaux saw value in you — the reader — getting to know a little about him personally, and where he stands politically on some issues. But before he was sworn into office, Arceneaux thought it important to — at my request — let you know about him and his plans for the city. He answered every question thoughtfully, without hesitation, and void of mayor-speak.
I appreciate that.
Before our talk, I didn’t know Tom Arceneaux. I have met him on a handful of occasions, mostly back in the day when I was in television. He was always complimentary of my work. But after listening to Arceneaux and learning about who he is not so much as a politician, but as a human being, I feel like I know him.
And I like him.
Without being overbearing, Arceneaux let me know he is a religious person.
“Faith is a big part of my life because my Savior, Jesus Christ, saved and redeemed me,” he said. “He took me out of the miry clay and put my feet on the Rock.”
I like that. We need more religious people in elected office. You know, someone who believes in looking up to his or her most important constituent.
I also like that the mayor gets out a lot. Don’t be surprised if you see him at dinner, or the symphony, as I did a few weeks ago. You know, a mayor of the people. But one place you won’t see him is at Tinseltown.
“You get me in a cool, dark place and I’m going to fall asleep,” said Arceneaux. “It’s cheaper for me to fall asleep at home.”
That tells me he is going to be fiscally responsible with our money.
I like that.
By the way, the mayor and his wife of 29 ½ years, Elizabeth, do watch movies — on Netflix.
“We have different tastes,” he said. “I’m a TV movie Rom-Com (Romantic Comedy) guy, and she’s an action-suspense movie fan. We’re kind of cross-gender.”
If the mayor can navigate those differences for almost 30 years, surely he can change the direction of a city that seems to be headed in what many consider the wrong direction.
Or can he?
I am of the opinion he can’t. I am also of the opinion no one person can. Not even the mayor.
However, we — the people who make up the city — do have that power. We can start with the easy stuff.
Stop throwing your Whataburger wrapper out the window. Offer a smile or an act of kindness to a stranger. You own a piece of land? Cut the (blanking) grass.
To paraphrase the late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield, when you don’t have self-respect, you have no respect at all.
Then, we can move on to the hard suff. Like settling a disagreement with conversation instead of gunfire. Like raising your children in a loving environment. Remember, today’s young ones are tomorrow’s future.
Election night, my fiancée and I were at an event attended by many smart, successful people (we were given free tickets.) I checked my phone and saw that Arceneaux was going to be Shreveport’s mayor. I passed along the news to someone at our table. That person’s response?
“Thank God. Maybe now we can go outside of our house without fear of getting shot.”
I hated to break it to that lady — and I didn’t — but Tom Arceneaux isn’t going to prevent you from being shot. No one is going to do that.
I asked Arceneaux what he would say to her—and others—who believe the mayor will be the savior of the city.
“There’s one savior, and his name is Jesus — not Tom.”
Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com