Last week witnessed another chapter of The Empire vs. Republican Bossier City Mayor Tommy Chandler with a minor defeat for the latter, but from that might bring a much bigger win for reform in the future.
Having originally selected Republican Shane Cheatham as his chief administrative officer, who knocked off long-time Republican incumbent City Councilor Scott Irwin this spring that also saw Chandler defeat four-time incumbent Republican Lo Walker, that nomination never even came to a vote. With Cheatham having resigned his School Board seat and turned down the council win, Council graybeards no party Jeff Darby, Republican Jeff Free, the GOP’s David Montgomery, and Democrat Bubba Williams conspired with newcomer and theirs and Walker’s ally Republican Vince Maggio to put Irwin back in temporarily. Then they didn’t provide a second to a motion by GOP newcomer Chris Smith – Chandler’s only friend on the Council so far – to appoint Cheatham.
It was a rookie/outsider mistake to give away a sure Council supporter in this fashion by Chandler asking and Cheatham accepting, and Chandler hung in with his choice for a couple of months. But he finally had to bow to the reality of the intractability of Council Pres. Williams, who publicly gave vague reasons why he wouldn’t support Cheatham, and the other graybeards plus new bootlicker Maggio, and thus nominated Amanda Nottingham for the post.
Nottingham’s background in government qualitatively was not any more extensive than Cheatham’s, yet the graybeards and Maggio (minus Irwin, who was absent) enthusiastically brought her on board in the most recent council meeting. In fact, Chandler had asked for her to become interim CAO at a lower salary that the city’ previous one, but then the Council happily amended the item to make her the official CAO and at the previous salary.
Overall, it meant a win for The Empire by its councilors throwing their weight around on Chandler’s choice and shutting out Cheatham. But Cheatham might have the last laugh, starting later this year.
It might begin with electing his successor, a contest among Democrat Darren Ashley, Republican Brian Hammons, and independent Michael Lombardino. The campaign literature of Hammons and Lombardino largely reflects the same broad platitudes, and both support term limits for the job. However, Hammons is seen as an ally of Cheatham’s, while Lombardino is considered aligned with The Empire (campaign finance reports due soon would bring confirmation).
A Hammons win would give Chandler another ally on the Council, putting him back to where he should have been at the start of his term, a vote short of having support enough to sustain vetoes. If achieving that, his bargaining position against The Empire strengthens considerably.
Thus, one of The Empire’s councilors must defect. It wouldn’t be Montgomery or Williams, who with Walker enthusiastically squandered taxpayer wealth on an orgy of capital projects while seeing crime rates drift upwards with less policing. Maggio seems cut of the same cloth and has shown no signs of independence from the duo.
Darby showed some independence from the Walker regime from time to time, but during Chandler’s short time at the helm has shown unexpected antipathy towards him. This leaves Free, who to date is the only councilor to join Smith on a very few votes where the others have outgunned Smith.
Any mayor with a modicum of talent can figure out blandishments offered that can create councilor allies for him. In turn, in this environment a sharp councilor can use his vote to leverage accomplishment of his policy preferences.
As Free – who has served less than half the years on the Council as have Darby, Montgomery, and Williams – seems The Empire’s only councilor open to Chandler overtures, he could be brought onboard to their mutual satisfaction, if Hammons (or whoever) wins and is amenable to allying with Chandler.
Concerning the vision of change Cheatham had when he ran for the Council, beyond the present he could contribute in a much more substantial way. He wouldn’t want to run for the Council in 2025 for a district seat against an ally – but only one of the at-large seats is filled with an ally, Smith. The other is held down by the guy Cheatham sees as the undisputed ringleader behind The Empire with Walker out of power – Montgomery.
Cheatham, who if CAO wouldn’t be in position to do this, knocking off or forcing into retirement Montgomery, with successful reelections otherwise, gives Chandler the majority he needs to put The Empire into remission to the benefit of Bossier City in general. (Another way of doing this Cheatham is actively supporting, a recall of Williams, but that is a longshot.) Cheatham may have lost this battle, but he might yet end up helping Chandler to win the war for reformers.