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.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.