Meet the Council: District 2 Councilman Bill Dawson

Halen Doughty
District 2 Councilman Bill Dawson

Just two years into his first term, District 2 Councilman Bill Dawson is already making a name for himself on the Ascension Parish Council.

His first time running for public office was a tremendous success, and Dawson already serves as chairman of the council. He jokingly said it's unclear if that speaks to his rapport with the other members who voted him into the position or whether it's simply an indication that no one else wanted the added responsibility.

Although a rookie on the council, Dawson is an experienced public servant. He worked on the Ascension Economic Development Corporation board for six years prior to running for a seat on the council. He was also on the Pelican Point Homeowners Association board for about eight years. He was chairman and president of those boards respectively during his time at each, so it's clear to see Dawson is a natural born leader.

A key issue for Dawson in his work on the council is transportation. Since Dawson joined the council, they have already made some major strides in improving local traffic conditions like launching the Move Ascension initiative.

Dawson is looking at simple solutions to major problems in an effort to reduce traffic without shelling out big bucks. One way to do that would be to synchronize the stop lights on Airline Highway to keep traffic from getting backed up. He said that's an easy fix that doesn't require shutting down the roadway for construction.

"This is something that can have an immediate impact for a very low cost," said Dawson. " . . . There are some things that we can do without actually putting the orange cones out there and building."

Another solution could be to encourage more carpooling in an effort to reduce the number of cars on the road. Dawson said we could cut the traffic in half if more than one person got in a car. Better education about the benefits of carpooling could lead to less traffic and a smoother commute for everyone on the road. Getting people to do it, however, could be a challenge.

"We have to educate people and get them to realize what effect they can have," said Dawson.

Drainage is another top priority for the councilman, especially in the Pelican Point area where Dawson lives. He said one public meeting on the issue has already been held. As a result of that the council worked worked with the Pontchartrain Levee District to remove some obstructions in Bayou Conway.

Dawson stays in touch with his constituents in more traditional ways, through phone calls and public meetings. Dawson isn't very active on social media, but he said residents always have a way to get in touch with him if they have a problem. Voters looking to share ideas with the council chairman need only to pick up the phone.

"They will call you and let you know what their opinion is, which is good, and that's what we want," said Dawson.

Before retiring to become a volunteer and elected official, Dawson worked at ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge for 30 years. The company even gave him the chance to live and work in Venezuela with his family for two years. During his tenure there, he worked in electrical instrumentation, project management, and environmental protection. Even though Dawson is "semi-retired," he still runs a consulting company that helps with hazardous waste cleanup. That experience has come in handy on the council as he works on water flow issues to resolve drainage problems.

Dawson followed in is grandfather's footsteps in both work and public service. His grandfather served as the school board president in East Baton Rouge and as a state legislator for many years. Similar to Dawson, his grandfather worked at Standard Oil before retiring to become an elected official.

Moreover, an avid clock collector, he has more than 50 antique timepieces in his collection. His love for restoring old clocks led him to launch a petition to restore the clock on top of the courthouse in Donaldsonville. He wants to have the mechanics replaced with new technology. The old machinery would be restored and placed on display in the courthouse to demonstrate the craftsmanship of the 19th century, as well as the history of the city.

Outside of public service, Dawson has plenty of hobbies to keep him busy. He also likes to hunt and fish and even renovates buildings, including a home he owns in Donaldsonville and the old bank on Railroad Avenue. Dawson has been married to his wife Pam for 47 years. They couple has a son who lives in Nashville, as well as two grandchildren.

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