When I was hired at KVOL in 1960, I had been covering politics for several years reporting on the likes of Earl K. Long, B. B. "Sixty" Rayburn and Willie Rainach. I was intrigued by Lafayette's unique three-trustee form of government. The tall, soft-spoken, 41-year-old mayor who had just been elected to lead this small city in transition also fascinated me. We were beginning to be seriously impacted by the rapid growth of the oil industry, the expansion of the university and our geographic location as the hub of Southwest Louisiana.
Ray Bertrand was the perfect match for the time and place. He brought dignity and integrity to the political arena and won the trust of his constituents by delivering on his promises. I was impressed with the fact that he took the time to explain to this young reporter, new on the scene, the intricacies and players of the political network in Lafayette and his personal vision and agenda for its future. Maybe it was his pilot training that had him always focused on the horizon, always planning far ahead of his contemporaries.
It has all been recited in the past week: Lafayette's population nearly doubling in his 12 years in office and its physical size nearly tripling; the phenomenal economic development of the area; and accelerated street, sewer, drainage and recreation projects to keep up with the amazing growth. Through it all he served with unwavering good humor, courtesy and poise.
Admittedly, this was a different time with different standards. For instance, we in the media seldom questioned the fact that the three trustees always held closed meetings before the required public meetings. Differences were discussed and solved away from public scrutiny ' or maybe more importantly, away from reporters and cameras that today tend to encourage exaggerated posturing and rhetoric. I don't recall one time at the public meetings when the vote on any subject was not unanimous. This is not said to condone secret government operations but, because of the character of the people involved, led by Ray Bertrand, it worked. Could it today? Probably not.
After three highly successful terms as Lafayette's mayor, he graciously stepped back into private life and continued his personal successes in the banking industry. It's a fact of political life that once you enter the arena, you are known as a politician. So it's natural that most of the conversation following Bertrand's passing centered on the relatively short 12 years he served in political office. But he should also be remembered for the long, lonely and dangerous missions he flew as a fighter pilot during World War II. That discipline and respect continued when he left the public arena. He continued his unselfish service in numerous community affairs and always had a warm smile, a firm handshake for friends and acquaintances and a deep love for his family.
He was deeply saddened when he lost his first wife and dedicated soul mate, Julie. But he also recognized and often remarked on his great good fortune of finding the love and companionship of his aptly named second wife, Faith.
I was deeply moved when, in 1992, Ray introduced me at a campaign function and endorsed my candidacy for mayor of Lafayette. When I lost in that oh-so-close runoff, he was one of the first of many phone calls I received. He said, with a soft chuckle, "Ron, I know you already realize this, but I just want to reassure you, there is life after politics."
We can all be thankful that Ray Bertrand gave us so much of the best of his life ' publicly and privately.
Ron Gomez isÂ a former broadcaster and legislator and the author of two books, MyÂ Name is Ron and I'm aÂ RecoveringÂ Legislator and Pelican Games. He currently owns Edge Communications, an advertising and public relations firm.
The political tilt of the Senate during President Barack Obama's final two years in office is likely to hinge on a handful of female contenders in tight and costly races.
A former BP executive will be allowed to travel to the United Kingdom later this month while he awaits trial on charges relating to an investigation of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
South Koreans defend ramen; special forces had failed to find James Foley; Vegas lures LGBT tourists and more national and international news for Thursday, August 21, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Friends and family will celebrate Spider's life in September.
Saints safety Jairus Byrd has rarely been so eager to hit and be hit, if only to reassure himself that his surgically repaired back is as healed as doctors believe.
Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, verbally sparred as they officially signed up on the opening day of qualifying for Louisiana's November election.
Superintendent tells crowd he'd just emerged from a four-hour meeting with the attorney hired to investigate him.
The start of the three-day qualifying period for November’s elections has so far yielded 10 official bids and one new announcement from candidates seeking a seat on the school board.
It’s been just over four months since attorney Barry Domingue committed suicide the morning before he was to stand trial for a second day in the federal Curious Goods case, leaving his fellow attorney/co-defendant Daniel Stanford with a temporary mistrial and awaiting his day in court.
Candidates for Louisiana's Nov. 4 election must officially sign up for the ballot this week.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's effort to derail Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards was halted Tuesday by a state judge who said the governor's actions were harmful to parents, teachers and students.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram isn't letting a humbling start to his pro career lower his opinion of what he can still accomplish in the NFL.
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.
A card-carrying member of Lafayette’s “tribe,” Milton “Spider” Guidry died over the weekend. IND music writer Nick Pittman remembers the character and the man.
As tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, Mo., between law enforcement and residents protesting the shooting death of a local teen by police, we’re reminded of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the in-custody death earlier this year of a New Iberia man.