I was born and mostly raised in Baton Rouge, I lived a brief period of my life in Jacksonville, Florida. I left at 13 years old and came back at 18. My years in Florida allowed me to see better schools, developing neighborhoods, and mostly progressive communities. My best friends were from Columbia and Scotland, people from across the world decided that they wanted to live in this community and as a result the culture of the community was one that helped me to see the good America could be as a teenager. I moved back to Baton Rouge as a senior in high school and went to Glen Oaks High. It was a major difference from the school I went to in Florida, there was no diversity. That lack of diversity wasn’t just at school, I saw it daily in my life in Baton Rouge. I cast my first ballot for President that year, mayor as well, I voted for Melvin “Kip” Holden to be elected the first black mayor of Baton Rouge. I had hoped that by electing a black mayor the issues of race and diversity in Baton Rouge would improve. I was 18. Now 12 years later I ask myself what did my community get for my vote? The truth is, not much.
As I’ve gotten older, started a family, and a business I’ve learned how this process works and how much power the mayor of Baton Rouge truly has. Each year the mayor has the ability to craft a budget for the next year. That budget is voted on by the Metro Council and is rarely changed from the wishes of the mayor. After the budget is approved by the council, the only person who can make changes, create contracts, and move money is the mayor-president of the parish. This is an huge amount of power. The council of course has the ability to reject a measure by the mayor and that happens, though rarely. Considering the condition of the community I grew up in, a year ago I began to think about who I would support for mayor this year. This person would have the ability to reshape the outlook for hundreds of thousands of people in this community and that job shouldn’t be given to someone again just because they were from my community.
I looked at the track record of those running for office and the person who seemed to have accomplished the most, but made the least amount of fuss about it was Sharon Weston Broome. Over her time in office Broome allocated millions of dollars for development for projects that she never bragged about, she just did the work.
She allocated, $13,900,000 La Community & Tech, Automotive Training Facility
$15 Million for Southern University Baton Rouge Central Parking Facility.
$600,000 for BR Metro Airport, Airport Aviation Business Park.
$3 Million for New Baker Fire Station.
$600,000 for Hooper Road Sewer Improvements.
$1 Million for Southern University Baton Rouge A.O. Williams Hall Renovations.
$1.2 Million for Baton Rouge Metro Airport Aviation Business Park.
$1,050,000 for Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission for Children’s Museum. $1,555,000 for Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission Anna T. Jordan Site and Facility Improvements.
$165,500 Baker Fire Training Facility.
$100,000 for Southeast Community Health Center in Baker.
$1 Million for North Baton Rouge YMCA
$100,000 for Rollins Road park Basketball Court Cover
$300,000 for Water System Improvements in Zachary.
$95,000 for Natural Gas Distribution System Improvements in Zachary.
$135,000 for Annison Plantation Renovation in Zachary.
$70,000 for Sewer Testing and Rehabilitation in Zachary.
Each one of these projects were a benefit to the people of north Baton Rouge, things that we don’t hear a lot about because Sharon Weston Broome hasn’t been looking for a camera, she’s been working for results. When Gov. Bobby Jindal decided to privatize healthcare in Louisiana, Sharon Weston Broome helped to put funding in place to create the urgent care clinic in north Baton Rouge that is now set to be a new emergency room. We may have lost an asset due to the decisions of Gov. Jindal, but the work of then Sen. Broome, helped to pave the way for what is hoped to be a future for healthcare in north Baton Rouge. The mayor’s office will give Broome the opportunity to do more to allocate resources to areas in our parish that need it the most. Projects that happened under her watch in north Baton Rouge created hundreds of new jobs, many with the aid of her office. The mayor of Baton Rouge has a huge amount of power over the allocation of resources, if Sharon while in the legislature appropriated millions, I have no doubt she will do the same as mayor.
After the murder of Alton Sterling, one of the first calls I received after reporting on the incident was from Sharon Weston Broome. She called to say she wanted to help in any way she could. In the moments following, she attended the press conference on the steps of city hall, she never attempted to be seen, but she was present. She met with the family privately to offer her condolences, an act that was never seen, but she was present. She attended meetings and protest, took notes, and followed up after events to share advice or offer resources. She was never in search of an opportunity to talk, but an opportunity to serve. This showed me a lot about who Sharon Weston Broome is as a person. Much was revealed about our leaders on a local level when Alton Sterling was killed, it showed us who was ready to work for change and who was campaigning and not just those campaigning for mayor a host of politicians were looking for credit and not working for solutions.
When the police officers were killed on July 17th, both Sharon and I were called to local news stations to speak on what had taken place in our community. I listened as John Delgado told protestors to get out of Baton Rouge. I watched Sharon handle the situation with the type of temperament needed to lead in crisis. She didn’t take credit for ending protest, but she like others asked for peace while our city faced yet another tragedy. Sharon was present.
Then the great flood hit our city. I was visiting the shelter at the Jewel J. Newman community center in north Baton Rouge and in walks Sharon Weston Broome. Her home had flooded, but she was there to see how she could help the families affected by the flood. I had a conversation with her and said “take some time for Sharon.” She said, “I will.” Then she walked over and opened a box with a cot in it for an flood victim and helped them get situated. I watched her stand and talk with people in the shelter and encourage them, while she herself had a flooded home.
I have watched Sharon Weston Broome this summer reveal herself in a silent way, to be the type of strong leader our community needs. Not a leader for the black community alone, but a leader that can bring all sides to the table after the tragedies our community has faced this summer. From her presence after the killing of Alton Sterling, her temperment after the killing of our police officers, and her sacrifice for others after the great flood even though her own home had flooded. Sharon was present, and willing to do the work to help the people. That’s leadership.
Last year I challenged Sharon to be vocal about the race Carolyn Hill was in for her seat on BESE, Hill was being attacked daily by her opponent. I wrote Broome an open letter and said, “Will you be another Kip Holden for Baton Rouge? Someone who is good for business, but not good for blacks.” Sharon Weston Broome has shown me, she is no Kip Holden, by her actions this summer. Her funding of projects in this community as a legislator shows that she has been pushing resources to this community while in office. She simply isn’t one to brag, and in a generation of social media that is to be appreciated.
Baton Rouge needs police reform, economic equity, better schools, expanded healthcare access, and more inclusion. Those things won’t happen without a leader who can walk into any room in Baton Rouge and sit down with people and have a conversation about the future of our city-parish. When I made the decision to support Sharon Weston Broome, it wasn’t because of something I saw on TV, it was because of what I witnessed with my own eyes.
I have challenged Sharon Weston Broome on more than one occasion and each time she has responded with action. She has proven to me not to be the type of leader who avoids the issues, but deals with them in her own way. I have cast my support behind Broome, but will challenge her each step of the way to do what is in the best interest of all people in Baton Rouge. As a business owner I know that leadership is about doing more than about talking, and I’ve watched Sharon do. It is critical that we as a community elect the right type of leader as we move forward. Too many in our community are behind because we have had leaders who limit the growth in our community to certain groups of people. I believe there is a seat at the table for us all under a Broome administration. That’s what our children deserve, a chance to flourish with people from all walks of life, the same way I did in my years in Florida. Too long have we been behind, because we refused to do something different. From the millions of dollars of investment, to her silent presence, Sharon has proven the leader she is. Let’s give Broome an opportunity to clean up this mess, and take a city in a better direction. For these reasons, I’m casting my ballot on Nov. 8th for Sharon Weston Broome.