Closing Argument: Steven Hebert for Carlee Alm-LaBar

Business and real estate executive Steven Hebert

This op-ed is a one of two letters written in support of candidates for mayor-president and does not reflect the editorial opinion of The Current or its staff. You can read Youngsville City Councilman Ken Stansbury’s closing argument supporting Josh Guillory here.

When I vote to send someone to Baton Rouge or Washington, D.C., to represent me, I want a partisan, conservative voice, someone who will be uncompromising and loud. This is not what I want in my mayor-president. That is an entirely different job and set of skills. As a businessman, I think of it like the difference between hiring a salesperson or a CEO — and I believe Lafayette Parish needs a CEO.

Lafayette Consolidated Government is a large corporate entity with an annual budget of over $600 million and 2,000 employees, operating in 10 departments. This position is an all-consuming, full-time, 365-day-a-year responsibility that will range from cutting ribbons to welcoming visiting dignitaries, managing natural disasters, pouring over a myriad of mundane rules, regulations and ordinances, and attending council meetings that go on into the night — all the while attempting to inform and communicate with two councils and the more than 200,000 citizens that make up the parish of Lafayette. This job is not for the faint of heart. 

I’m looking to hire a CEO this weekend for Lafayette Parish, and I believe the choice is clear. Carlee Alm-LaBar is our CEO, she is what we need in Lafayette Parish and, frankly, I believe we would be lucky to have her.  

I have seen firsthand Carlee’s love, passion and hard work for our city and parish. She is dedicated and passionate about our community, our culture, our quality of life and the future of Lafayette Parish. Her many years of involvement, both in and out of government, have proven her selfless commitment to this wonderful place we all call home.  

There has been an attempt to paint Carlee as something other than the smart, thoughtful, conservative leader that she is. I can tell you from personal experience, as a lifelong conservative and Republican, it is simply not true. Carlee and I, over the last couple of years in assignments we worked on together at One Acadiana, have had countless, detailed conversations about government, taxation, economic development and politics. Not once has she ever said anything to me or others that would give me pause about her conservative values and approach to government. 

Carlee has the head and the heart to be our leader. Carlee actually has a master’s degree in being our CEO and mayor-president. With a 4.0 GPA at LSU, she obtained her Master in Public Administration. Yep, that’s right, she has a master’s degree in running our city. If you spend any time with her, you instantly understand that she is extremely intelligent and thoughtful.  

As evidence of her love and passion for our city and parish, I’ve seen Carlee speak at numerous city council meetings advocating for our community after she was out of government. She has volunteered for numerous organizations and taken her personal time to participate in the improvement of our community. 

She was instrumental in creating the Project Front Yard initiative. Then, like a true leader, not asking anyone else to do something she was not willing to do, she spent many of her weekends with that group picking up trash around the community. Her passion for a better Lafayette was also evident when she participated in recycling after the Mardi Gras Krewe of Rio Parade and worked with Better Block Lafayette envisioning ways to improve areas of our city. No big talk here; her actions speak volumes.

While working in our government, she has made numerous improvements in the parish departments in which she worked and participated in many successful initiatives, including the redevelopment of the old federal courthouse, cross-training codes division inspectors, managing the I-49 Connector TIGER grant, overseeing our community’s comprehensive plan and strengthening our drainage requirements in the wake of the 2016 flood. There won’t be any time lost to prepare her or orient her to this job. The first day, she will hit the ground running and know exactly what to do.  

I’m probably most impressed by Carlee’s two undeniable acts of integrity and courage. First, she announced her candidacy for mayor-president while current Mayor-President Joel Robideaux was still in the race for his reelection. She was so committed to her belief that a new direction for our parish was needed that she stood up to her former boss and declared her candidacy for a better Lafayette Parish, regardless of who was in the race. 

Second, I am completely impressed by her unwavering commitment to a nonpartisan campaign. I can assure you, many of her supporters and donors have begged her, repeatedly, to just give in and run as a Republican. Yet she remains totally committed to the urgency of Lafayette Parish’s problems and our need for a solution that is neither Republican nor Democrat. It’s true that our parish has lost thousands of jobs, we are more prone to flooding and our government’s budget is broken. We need the ideas, talent and vision that Carlee brings to the table. Her steadfast commitment not to label that vision with a political party, in the face of tremendous pushback, is the best indication any of us can have that she is truly and passionately committed to solving problems, not towing a party line. 

I urge you to choose talent, ideas and vision over political party affiliation, half truths and misinformation. A serious and thoughtful evaluation of our choices on Saturday, in my opinion, indicates a clear choice. 

This is vital to our city and parish. Please choose wisely.