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.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Fifa under fire for fake turf plans; freed journalist back home; corporate conversions rising and more national and international news for Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her lead GOP challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy are running close when it comes to money. Landrieu has $5.5 million to Cassidy’s $5.6 million in the bank.
With expectations mounting that Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon announce his campaign for president, attention is turning to not only who he will bring along with him but also what will transpire politically back home during the transition.
Seven of the 11 U.S. cities in a new ranking of “most dangerous diets” are in the Bayou and Lone Star states, but the ranking is more about poverty than fried oysters.
Lafayette police are investigating a fatal shooting involving an alleged burglar and homeowner.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham got the message from the NFL. He's not dunking footballs over goal posts any more.
With qualifying over, the start of campaign season is official, and for the Lafayette Parish School Board, the race toward Nov. 4 will pit 20 candidates in battles for all 9 of the district’s available seats.
An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election Friday the same as any other candidate, filling out paperwork and handing over cash to pay his qualifying fee. But he finished it quite differently, doused with ice.
The recent release of Victor White III’s autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“Candidates for Congress and members of Congress spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back into power.”
Over the last four days of the trial against attorney Daniel Stanford, there’s been one notable absence from Judge Elizabeth Foote’s courtroom: attorney Bill Goode.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Nick Toon are not on the same page yet, and time is running short for Toon to get it right.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election the same as other candidates, filling out paperwork and handing over qualifying money. But he finished it like no other, doused with ice.
That’s what Lafayette Parish has obtained in Pentagon surplus since 2006.
Qualifying continues through Friday.