Monroe Mayor-elect Friday Ellis says his first priorities once in office include stamping out crime in the city’s streets, improving flood prevention infrastructure and spurring more economic development.
Ellis, a local businessman, was elected mayor in the municipal primary election Saturday, outpacing four other candidates, including Mayor Jamie Mayo. Ellis captured 6,835 votes, or 52 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s office. He needed 50 percent of the vote plus one to win outright without advancing to a run-off.
Ellis told The Ouachita Citizen the election outcome — and his new position — had not fully set in yet.
“Honestly, I’m very humbled,” Ellis said. “I’m thankful to the residents of Monroe for trusting me to lead this city. I’m grateful for my team and the race they helped me run. I am grateful for my wife and family.”
“We ran our race, and I think we ran a clean race, and we kept it right where we wanted it,” he later added.
Mayo, a Democrat who has served as the city’s mayor since 2001, ran second with 4,987 votes, or 38 percent of the vote. Mayo was unavailable for comment. In a brief post on Facebook on Sunday, Mayo congratulated Ellis and others securing election to local offices.
“These are difficult times and I sincerely wish them well,” Mayo said. “I want to thank all of you for your support for 19 years as Mayor and 6 years as city councilman. Although disappointed, my family and I look forward to the next chapter.”
In an interview with The Ouachita Citizen, Ellis thanked Mayo for his service.
“As long as I’ve been in Monroe, he’s been my mayor, and I worked for him for five years in the engineering department,” Ellis said. “I want to thank him for his time serving the citizens and his public service. I look forward to working with him when the opportunity arises.”
In the mayor’s race, community activist Marie Brown finished third; local teacher Fredrick Louis ran fourth; and local businessman Ronnie Scott came in fifth.
When asked when he would take office, Ellis said his team had requested input from the Secretary of State’s office about some technicalities in the city’s home rule charter.
“It could be as soon as two weeks or as long as a month,” Ellis said.
That would be the case because election results have not yet been certified by the Secretary of State. Mayo’s term as mayor ended on July 6, as did the terms of all Monroe City Council members except Doug Harvey. Saturday’s election took place in July — instead of April — because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the associated delays imposed on elections across the state by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
“We’re going to use this time to think about what’s next and where to set our priorities,” Ellis said.
According to Ellis, his administration’s priorities would match those touted during his mayoral campaign.
“We want to focus on flooding issues, crime prevention, public safety and public engagement, and we want to focus on economic development,” Ellis said. “Everybody wants to feel safe. We continually struggle with flooding. We’ll find a way to do those things and use our funds wisely.”
Ellis said he would trust local businesses and industry to identify certain areas where city government could assist them.
“We’re looking forward to finding businesses to attract here and creating the infrastructure to bring them here,” Ellis said.
Ellis said his passion for tackling these matters led him to become a candidate for mayor in the first place.
“And honestly, in the midst of this, we can restore trust that our city government can represent the people well and they can get the best service regardless of where they live in Monroe,” he said.
On Tuesday, Ellis formed a transition team to provide input on how his administration tackles these priorities among others, including workforce training and improving quality of life. The members of Ellis’ transition team include Darian Atkins with Louisiana Delta Community College; Millie Atkins, retired from CenturyLink; Ike Byrd, pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Chap Breard with MOE Business; former Monroe City Council member Eddie Clark; state Rep. Michael Echols; Bruce Hanks, vice-chairman of the CenturyLink board of directors; local developer Joe Holyfield; John Jones, former senior vice president at CenturyLink; North Louisiana Economic Development President Scott Martinez; state Rep. Pat Moore; Dr. Ray Morrison, founding dean at the VCOM school on the University of Louisiana-Monroe’s campus; Dana Talley with the state Department of Education; St. Francis Medical Center chief executive officer Kristin Wolkart; and local educator Robert Wright.
“Mayor-Elect Ellis and his team have asked for and listened to citizen and business feedback throughout this campaign,” said Echols, R-Monroe. “It’s now time to put priorities into motion and begin the process of developing a valid blueprint for our future growth and a better quality of life for everyone that calls Monroe home.”
Meanwhile, in the Monroe City Council races on Saturday, City Council members Gretchen Ezernack and Juanita Woods secured re-election with at least 54 percent of the vote each.
The race for the District 4 seat on the City Council advanced to a run-off next month. In the District 4 race, Jesse Smith tallied 540 votes, or 37 percent of the vote, while Carday Marshall Sr. had 427 votes, or 29 percent of the vote. Jesse Walker and Trandon Welch trailed in fourth and fifth place with 252 votes and 231 votes respectively.
In the District 5 race, Kema Dawson recorded 962 votes, or 52 percent of the vote, enough to secure election without advancing to a run-off.
The other candidates included Chresancio “Chee-Chee” Jackson, Kevin Johnson, Eugene Payne Jr., and Dewayne Wooten.
Meanwhile, elected to the Richwood Board of Aldermen were Wysinger Cleveland, Janice Fleming, Leola Keys, Simeon Profit, and Donald Richard.