Christian missionary and local businessman Don Nance says he will be a candidate for the mayor of the city of West Monroe.
Nance, 55, announced his plans to challenge incumbent West Monroe Mayor Staci Mitchell on Tuesday night at BBQ West on Cypress Street with some 20 supporters present.
Mitchell is seeking re-election to a second term in office. Mitchell and Nance are each Republicans.
Qualifying for the March 26 primary election will run from Jan. 26 to Jan. 28.
After spending time as a Christian missionary, Nance said he returned to West Monroe about 15 years ago and began working for the city of West Monroe’s public works department, eventually earning a promotion to sanitation supervisor.
After leaving his employment at the city, Nance established Don Nance Properties, buying abandoned homes and renovating them for rental or sale. In October 2020, he opened the Cigar Experience on Cypress Street.
On Tuesday, Nance took aim at changes in the city that have occurred under Mitchell’s tenure as well as her plans for the future, including the incurring of up to $17 million in bonded indebtedness to build an indoor sports complex.
According to Nance, shootings as well as the use of heroin and methamphetamine posed a significant risk to public safety.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that the mayor defunded the jail,” said Nance, referring to the closure of the West Monroe jail in early 2020.
At the time, Mitchell and West Monroe Police Chief Jeff Terrell claimed the costs of housing inmates at the jail ran north of $874,000 each year whereas housing inmates at the parish prison—Ouachita Correctional Center—would cost about $240,000 a year.
“They (suspects) are getting summons,” Nance said. “They’re not having to go to court. They’re not being held responsible. They will tell you we have Ouachita Correctional, but Ouachita Correctional is usually overcrowded. This has hindered our court system.”
“The number of people being prosecuted is low while crime is high,” he added.
Nance also said residents deserved to have clean water in their homes. He said residents flagged him down nearly every day while working for the city’s sanitation department.
“They would ask why is our water brown or why do we get all these notices?” Nance said. “The water comes out of the well clean, but the pipes here are over 50 years old. There’s rust. They’ve been patched, patched, patched.”
The poor condition of roadways in the city, Nance said, reminded him of streets he saw while in the mission field in Mexico.
“A lot of these streets need to be redone,” Nance said. “We’re in the middle of building a walking park, and we’re announcing a new walking park while there are sidewalks that are busted up.”
“We need to take care of what we have,” he added.
According to Nance, employees were laid off at the city jail, employees were laid off in the city’s garbage division, and the West Monroe Convention Center was losing money each year.
“Things built by Dave Norris are being torn down,” said Nance, referring to former Mayor Dave Norris.
Norris served in the mayor’s office for some 40 years until 2018 when Mitchell secured 60 percent of the vote to win election.
Recently, Mitchell and the West Monroe Board of Aldermen are pursuing the construction of an indoor sports complex where tournaments could be hosted for indoor sports like basketball and others. The plans call for the city to incur up to $17 million in bonded indebtedness, though the project remains in the design phase.
According to Nance, the indoor sports complex was a “risk and a gamble with your taxpayer dollars.”
“You, the taxpayer, are going to go out on a limb and build eight basketball courts,” Nance said. “Sterlington built a sports complex and it brought the town to its knees and the state had to step in.”
“I will not be gambling with the future of West Monroe,” he added.
Nance and his wife, Eva, have been married for 21 years and have three daughters.