Representative candidates in Lions den
When asked what is the most pressing issue facing Webster Parish there is agreement among the four candidates vying to become the next District 10 state representative.
That sentiment was echoed by each of the candidates during a political forum Thursday sponsored by the Minden Lions Club.
The hopefuls include Republicans Ronnie Broughton, Jerri Ray de Pingre', Gerald Holland and Democrat Gene Reynolds.
"I can't help but wonder what kind of economy Webster Parish will become?" asked candidate Broughton, who ran for this seat four years ago. "Will we be a food stamp economy like our neighbor to the east, Claiborne Parish? Will we be a paycheck economy like Bossier Parish? Will we grow or retreat?"
That notion of job growth and economic prosperity was a major talking point during each of the candidates' remarks during the forum.
Broughton and his fellow hopefuls each pledged to fight for Webster and give its residents an advantage in every area.
DePingre', who has more than three decades of experience running small businesses, said new taxes are not needed and would be detrimental to any plans for growth.
"Conservative philosophy is important," she said, referring to her belief in the best way to aid business and spark job growth. "The only way to fix our economy and create new jobs is to reduce taxes and remove government interference in the state."
Both dePingre' and fellow candidate Gene Reynolds are educators. She taught at Phillips Middle School, Glenbrook School and Webster Junior High School while Reynolds has extensive experience in the classroom as well as from the front office.
A principal at seven different schools throughout the parish, Reynolds highlighted the importance of education in job growth during his remarks.
He specifically cited the soon-to-be constructed technical college on Industrial Drive.
"The school has a real opportunity to provide a career path for local high school students," Reynolds said. "[The school can do this] by providing the skills necessary for a more qualified workforce for companies that can come and provide jobs."
Along the lines of companies adding jobs, candidate Gerald Holland said business must prosper for success.
"If there are no jobs then there is no revenue to pay taxes," the longtime banker advised.
Through his campaigning, Holland said he has encountered numerous business owners who have the means to expand but are reluctant to do so because of uncertainty brought about by government action.
"Business is not just a cash cow for the government," he said. "Business is not just to provide revenue for the government."
Deeming himself a "growth" candidate, Holland said everyone shouldn't be fighting for a smaller portion of the pie.
"We need to make a bigger pie through helping our businesses grow and add jobs," he said.
But adding jobs will not be easy without change, diligence and a fresh perspective Broughton said.
"You must have courage and vision," the Webster Parish School Board member and longtime businessman said. "New taxpayers, not new taxes. That's what is needed in Webster Parish."