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.
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.