By Bonnie Culverhouse
In efforts to compromise over recent turmoil in city government, Minden Mayor Terry Gardner met with District A Councilman Wayne Edwards to discuss transparency and ways the mayor and the council can take steps to move the city forward.
“I am going to try and do a better job of keeping the public better informed,” the mayor said. “Mr. Edwards wants me to do this at the council meetings. He wants me to keep the information flowing to them, rather than just saying ‘I have an open-door policy – come see me.’”
The mayor said he will now be increasing emails, flyers, announcements and other engagements of city activities. Each councilperson has a desk in a large room located at City Hall.
“I am now putting hard copies of everything on their desks,” Gardner said. “I am going to be more transparent and give them more updates on everything happening at the city. I will be as upfront and transparent as humanly possible, and I hope we can put all of this behind us and move forward for the betterment of all in the city.”
Gardner said the council would also like to be part of running City Hall on a day-to-day basis.
“They’re requesting that in addition to the employee manual, they want to know when I hire people, what kind of salaries – what the position will pay,” he said. “They don’t want this to be seen as interference. They want to help me do my job.
“And I respect that,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, the third request from Edwards is something that would require the mayor to go back on his word. Human Resources Manager April Aguilar was promised a $5,000 raise when she has been at City Hall one year.
“Mr. Edwards wants me to give April a six percent raise on her anniversary, which is $3,000,” Gardner said. “Then down the road, they would have conversation about giving her an additional $2,000 increase in accordance with current business practices.”
This remains a sticking point, the mayor said, and one from which he won’t back down.
Gardner feels, with the help of his staff, he has moved the city forward during COVID. He pointed out new jobs and 58 new businesses have come to town during his time in office.
The mayor said he is always willing to speak at meetings, whether it be garden or book clubs and class reunions.
“They just need to call me, and if my schedule permits, I’ll be there,” he said.
In other city news, the mayor said the City of Minden has been showcased recently with the annual Webster Parish Fair and class reunions, bringing untold numbers of persons to town.
“The first part of the week, we had the fair parade, and the whole community came out for it,” Minden Mayor Terry Gardner said. “Opening night of the fair was the largest in the history of the Webster Parish event.”
Gardner said what he enjoys about the fair is the people that make it happen.
“It’s just like the people that make your community,” he said. “The Civitans were out there, American Legion was selling hamburgers, the Lions Club … the whole community working together.”
His favorite part, he said, is talking to the senior citizens.
“Bingo was very well attended, and everyone had a good time,” he said. You learn so much history.”
With homecoming for several schools taking place the same week, the mayor said 75 percent of the event centers downtown were booked.
“I spoke to the class of 1981,” he said. “I reflected on what’s happened in Minden over the last 40 years.”
Those reflections included new restaurants and businesses that were once pipe dreams of progressive people.
“Who would’ve thought 40 years ago that your two largest churches downtown would be razed and rebuilt in the same location?” he said. “Who would’ve thought there would be five event centers in Minden?
“You can go into the downtown area of any of the surrounding cities and tell the strength of them by their downtown,” Gardner continued. “And our city is strong.”
The mayor went on to point out the “amazing sales tax base” that has done nothing but grow the last two and a half years. He believes a lot of that is through the transparency he has created at the city.
When Gardner was running for mayor, he said he wanted to bring City Hall to the 21st century by using social media and keeping the public informed.
“I think I’ve done a good job with that with Will Gerding, our IT specialist,” Gardner said. “He keeps our TVs updated, so when people come in City Hall, they can see what’s going on. He does a Facebook post of what’s happening in our city on a regular basis, and he does emergency posting, keeping the public informed when there are problems, road closures or weather emergencies.”
Gardner described Gerding and himself as “boots on the ground” when there is a storm, making constant updates and keeping the city council informed through text messages.
Other departments have public Facebook pages – Minden Main Street and Economic Development, to name a couple. Human Resources constantly updates job openings.
“Communication is key to me,” Gardner said.