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Election 2019: Davis & Francis hear resident concerns in District 5

Editor’s Note: In order to give each of the four candidates a fair opportunity to share their vision without space constraints, the District 5 election coverage has been separated into two stories. The first covers Damon Davis and Anastacia Francis, who each identified as Democrats when registering with the Secretary of State. Robert Arcuri and Morgan Lee, who identified as Republicans, will be featured in Saturday’s edition of L’OBSERVATEUR.

LAPLACE – Friday was a good day for Anastacia Francis as she visited LaPlace residents, notebook and pen in hand, to hear concerns surrounding District 5. What she’s heard thus far has centered on water concerns, from flooded back roads to elevated water bills, in addition to a desire for recreational outlets for children.

Damon Davis has likewise had an ear for community concerns, whether he is working at Trendsetter Barber shop or talking to his neighbors. He’s discovered residents need accountability from St. John the Baptist Parish leadership to have faith in government spending of tax dollars, especially when it comes to the West Shore Levee and other large-scale projects.

Francis and Davis are two of the four candidates in the running for the Parish Council District 5 seat in the Oct. 12 election. Robert Arcuri and Morgan Lee are also on the ballot and will be featured in the next edition of L’OBSERVATEUR.

The candidate with the most votes will fill the seat of Michael Wright, who is termed out of the position and running for an At-Large role.

District 5 is comprised of several neighborhoods in LaPlace, including River Forest, Old 51, new 51, W. Fifth Street, parts of Airline Highway, Shady Nook and the Peavine Road area.

Many of the residents in the area were devastated during Hurricane Isaac and are looking for a sense of security, according to Francis. Drainage is a problem she understands well from seeing water pool in front of her own house whenever it rains.

Knowing not everyone attends Parish Council meetings for updates on ongoing projects, she feels it’s important to keep an open line of communication with the public.

“I think us working together is very important,” Francis said. “We have to be transparent with the people about what’s going on. I think one of the top priorities is to have great communication and for us to be able to come together and make the best decision for our community, for our district. I am prepared to go out every day and continue to build on what I get from the residents each day. My main concern is their needs. I want them to know they can call me.”

Davis feels he is also in tune with the community, and his plans for Parish Council encompass both water and code enforcement improvements.

“I want to bring in a better style of government and advocate for a lot of the issues that need to be addressed firsthand,” Davis said. “We are getting the levee, and that’s a big concern for a lot of residents. Another is pushing for drainage and implementing better spending of our taxpayer dollars. There are a lot of concerns I’ve been getting lately, even concerns in neighborhoods with high grass, blighted houses.”

Drainage must be addressed on a case-by-case basis by studying which streets fill with water first from heavy rainfall, Davis said. He is proud of the previous administration’s fight for federal dollars, something he pledges to continue if elected to office.

“That was a key part to me,” Davis said. “I want to also see us fight for federal dollars on another level for any other infrastructure matters we have coming forward.”

Before announcing her candidacy, Francis reached out to people who have previously held elected positions to get a feel for the responsibility it entails. She is excited to serve the building, building on a giving back tradition that started with her father.

“My family has always been involved in the community,” Francis said. “I remember as a little girl in Garyville, my daddy used to put on these events and giveaways. That passion really stemmed from my childhood, working with different youth groups, serving the community and the elderly.”

Francis, also passionate about serving children, knows her actions today will be impactful on the next generation. She hopes to set a positive example to pass down to her own children, and she compared her love for the parish to love for a child.

“You do everything you can to make sure you meet the needs of your children,” Francis said.

She strives to provide recreational activities for children and young adults. She’s hosted summer camps to keep children active and engaged. This past summer, Francis helped host a summer camp to teach emerging adults essential life skills with local nonprofit The Right Choice Project.

In working with The Right Choice Project, Francis also assists in HIV and AIDS awareness efforts within the community.

Davis has been part of the St. John Recreation Board since 2011, and he said the department has been on a positive trajectory in recent years.

“We’ve had more participation from the public and a lot less vandalism in parks since we’ve been making people accountable in different communities to take care of your area and your neighborhood,” Davis said.

He feels there is still room for improvement and would like to see more programs involving tennis and swimming. Both Davis and Francis see potential for more programs geared toward senior citizens.

In recreation and beyond, Davis would like to fight for the employees of the parish and see departments fully staffed. He would like to see improved communication between the Council, administration, Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office.

Another one of Davis’ goals is to make St. John Parish more attractive to new businesses. To accomplish this, he believes it is necessary to review old laws that may be stagnating progress and to make adjustments accordingly.

A member of the LaPlace Rotary Club, Davis has volunteered at the Andouille Festival and participated in clothing and book giveaways for elementary school students.

“My dedication and devotion to wanting to better St. John is nonstop. Being born here, raised here all my life, it’s a continuous effort that drives me,” Davis said.

Francis has likewise participated in Christmas and Thanksgiving giveaways, in addition to community fundraisers and back to school bashes. She’s a people person, and she said her professional experience has instilled leadership and accountability.

“I’m very accessible, and I’m very passionate about meeting the needs, and I think that’s really important,” Francis said. “The interaction and face-to-face is really important to me.”