Two vie for mayor of Gonzales

Wade McIntyre
Barney Arceneaux, left, and Martin McConnell both look to take the reins of the City of Gonzales from retiring Mayor Johnny Berthelot during the Oct. 4 election.

On Oct. 4, Gonzales voters will elect a new mayor for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.

Vying for the job vacated by eight-term mayor Johnny Berthelot are two Democrats, Barney Arceneaux and Martin McConnell.

Arceneaux is a 36-year resident of the city who has served eight years as Gonzales Chief of Police, and has worked in various areas of local and federal government.

McConnell formerly served as Ascension Parish Councilman, where he headed the Finance Committee, and as executive director of the Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce.

Both candidates said they feel traffic congestion in the city is the top issue in the election.

“It seems to be the problem we are dealing with now,” Arceneaux said.

Arceneaux said that he would like increase funding to the transportation trust fund by 25 percent each year for the next four to five years, which would generate more than $1 million that could be used as leverage to obtain state and federal funding.

“Traffic congestion is the number one thing I hear from just about everyone,” McConnell said. He added that he felt Intersection improvement is a big way the city can help alleviate the problem. He also suggested adding more turning lanes and turn signals, while increased use of traffic synchronization and improving the equipment the city uses for synchronization would help address the problem, he said.

Arceneaux said he will also focus on reducing crime and improving public safety by giving the police and fire chiefs the best equipment and training opportunities available. And he plans to work with the Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce and Ascension Parish Economic Development Corporation. He said he will increase the city’s commitment to AEDC from $25,000 to $100,000 in order to increase business development site locations in the city.

McConnell wants to enhance Gonzales recreation, which is already famous for baseball and soccer team sports, by developing bike lanes and bike paths. He said he would love to cover the city swimming pool, making it a year-round facility for families.

“I will work with local businesses to make sure they can continue to prosper,” he said. “Gonzales is already business friendly, but I want to encourage more young professionals to come to the city and more locals to start their own businesses.”

Arceneaux said he believes he is the best candidate because of strong leadership skills he developed as a former Marine, a major with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, Director of the parish’s Planning and Development Department and, currently, serving as District Director for U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon.

“We need someone who can hit the road and be effective on day one,” Arceneaux said.

McConnell, who is a vice-president and one of the original founders of United Community Bank, said he is the best candidate because of his education, training and background in elective office and business.

“I ran the Chamber of Commerce for eight years and have practical economic development experience,” he said. He cited experience as a founding member of United Community Bank where, as a commercial loan officer, he managed a multi-million portfolio, and his part on the team that brought Tanger Outlet Center to Gonzales.

When asked if he would continue the Berthelot administration policy of playing Swamp Pop music through the speakers in front of City Hall during business hours, Arceneaux laughed and said, “Well, I kind of like Swamp Pop, so, yeah, I imagine we will continue to do that.”

After a hearty laugh, McConnell said, “I’m in favor of anything that brings visitors to town and is good for the City of Gonzales.”