Winnsboro Voters Face Two Big Decisions This Weekend

WINNSBORO -- On Saturday, voters will decide on several major races in Northeast Louisiana -- including five mayoral elections.

Winnsboro voters have two big decisions to make this weekend, including who will run their city for the next four years.

Incumbent mayor Jackie Johnson faces a member of the city council, -- John "Sonny" Dumas.

"I want to give back to the city as much as it has given to me," said Dumas.

"I've been really thrilled with the participation, the volunteers," said Johnson of the campaign. "If I'm re-elected, you can expect more of the same."

Starting with Mayor Johnson, he was elected in 2010 after two decades on the Franklin Parish Police Jury.

"My four years has been a very rewarding four years for me," said Johnson. "The 22 years experience at the police jury has been a tremendous help to me."

He's also a former police officer and spent two decades in the army.

"During that time, I did two tours in Vietnam," he said.

Councilman Dumas has served nearly 12 years as councilman, under two mayors and administrations.

"There has been some ups and downs, but we've been able to make some good wise and sound decisions," said Dumas.

When the former mayor passed away in 2010, Dumas said he stepped up as interim.

"I was asked by my council, unanimously to fill in until someone else took over," he said."And I intend to take what I learned in order to benefit this city."

After four years, mayor Johnson says he's proud of ongoing and future projects like the farmers market.

"The farmers market is about ready to start shoveling dirt as we speak," said Johnson, who gives credit to a local senator for helping acquire state funds for that.

He's also working on building a new recreational center for after school programs. A business man donated 20 acres of land with a stipulation on it that it could only be used for a park. The mayor says they have made plans for a first class, two-story recreational center complete with classrooms, computer rooms, and play areas (ping pong, pool tables, gymnastics, swimming pool). Plus, an auditorium that will seat 880 people.

"We're asking the high school to become partners with us," Johnson said. "We would like to make this effort a full parish effort to include the sheriff's department, the police jury, city, and school board. Our city is without any form of after school program that would enable our children something constructive to do after school."

He said he's also bringing back the spring carnival, planning a  bike trail that leads from high school out to Highway 15, and initiating the Adams Street project.

"We're taking the old sidewalk out, and replacing it with brick sidewalks with New Orleans style street lamps. It's going to be a very attractive area once it's completed," he said.

Johnson said he wants to continue the projects and ideas that he and his administration have started.

"Do you know that we've had more than 40 businesses to locate in Winnsboro since I've been mayor?" he said. "We feel that this has been the most successful four year period that the city has enjoyed in some time now. I would love my community, regardless of the decision that they make. If they reelect me, I would really be appreciative and continue to work hard, and if it's for some reason that there should be a change, I will support and honor your decision," said Johnson.

For Dumas says he's focusing on a set of solid issues.

"They are economic development, social development, community development, industry, and education and recreation," he said. "These are the kind of things I'd like to see revitalized and of course made stronger, but we must do it as a unit."

Dumas said he wants to make sure the city prepares for current and future economic changes down the road.

"There are a number of issues, like any other city, that's being affected by the economy. We plan to take the economic roads, so to speak, to improve our industrial situation as far as jobs are concerned. And we have to take into consideration that Winnsboro, although it's kind of off the beaten path, it is a growing city, one that has a lot to offer."

He said that he wants the city to utilize what they have in order to progress.

"Such as jobs, our revenue source and our revenue stream. How strong it is and how we're going to make it stronger together in maintaining the necessary funds that we need in case of emergencies," he said.

Dumas said he is also focused on revitalizing downtown. 

"It has improved greatly and it has changed, but it's getting back to the old hometown look, and we want to maintain that," he said.

Dumas also touched on avoiding what other towns in Louisiana have faced due to poor management.

"Of course we want to make sure that our policies our procedures, our ordinances, everything falls in line. And if we fall in line, we won't find ourselves looking at someone at a higher level and saying, 'Yes, your honor,'" he said.

Two candidates claiming they're right for the job, but Winnsboro voters will decide who gets it.

Election day is this Saturday, April 5. You can vote at your local registrar's of voter's office from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

There's another big decision voters will have to make this Saturday in Winnsboro -- for a new police chief.

Incumbent chief Lester Thomas Jr. faces off against his own police officer, challenger George Wilhite.

Lester is serving his second term in office.

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