EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — While some supporters of St. George’s incorporation would have rather seen neighbor Eddie Rispone win Louisiana’s governorship last month, Gov. John Bel Edwards will keep his office — tasked with naming the proposed city’s first mayor, council and police chief.
“I think as soon as there’s a clear path, it’s wise to do it sooner rather than later,” said state Sen. Bodi White, a Republican who represents part of St. George.
Voters within St. George’s proposed limits approved incorporation at the polls this past fall. But a lawsuit is blocking its establishment, claiming a new city in southeastern East Baton Rouge Parish would strip resources from surrounding municipalities. St. George supporters denounce the litigation as a bureaucratic roadblock.
Attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who represents Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and the lawsuit’s other plaintiffs, says unless a judge rules in St. George’s favor, Edwards cannot appoint municipal leaders.
“What’s the governor supposed to do, appoint a mayor for a non-city?” Pierson said Wednesday. “That would then be like, what, the Mayor of Nowheresville? There is no City of St. George right now, only a proposed city.”
St. George organizers maintain that Edwards need not wait for the 19th Judicial District Court before making appointments, though they have stopped short of attacking the governor’s failure to name leaders yet.
“We’d like to see the process take place and start moving this forward, but I don’t see the governor as a hindrance,” said Lionel Rainey, a spokesperson for the incorporation effort.
Exactly who Edwards would appoint — and when — remains unclear. His deputy chief of staff, Christina Stephens, told BRProud.com in a statement Wednesday, “The governor is considering his options for appointments and the timeline for them, especially given the pending litigation.”
Any of the governor’s St. George-related appointees would serve temporarily, until voters have their say.
St. George would become the fifth city in East Baton Rouge Parish, if incorporated. It would also surpass Lake Charles as Louisiana’s fifth-largest city.