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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

From destitute to mayor

My curiosity was piqued when I saw the announcement a couple weeks ago that Rep. Jim McCrery was going to swear in the new Gibsland mayor.

“Gibsland?” I thought.

Turns out there’s an interesting story there.

I caught up with new mayor Pat White this week and asked him to fill me in on how it came to be that McCrery – who’s been criticized lately for not serving Northwest Louisiana – would swear in the mayor of a Bienville Parish town of just over 1,000 people.

White explained that he moved to Gibsland 11 years ago from California. He arrived “destitute” – broke and with only a few pieces of furniture – after his wife’s medical problems depleted their bank account.

“We came here to start over,” White said. “Gibsland was really, really good to us. Here I am 11 years later the mayor. I just wanted people to know when I ran for mayor we’re kind of a dying town. Basically if we don’t do something about it, it will be worse. Half of the visible businesses have gone away in the time I had been here. We’re trying to bring it back. That’s what that was about.”

He thought a good start for the town that’s most known for Bonnie and Clyde – and whose tax base consists of two businesses – would be to have McCrery come to the inauguration.

“It would show the people of Gibsland that we’re not second-class and we’re not backwater,” White said. “I was elected in a town, a white man, where five out of six people are black. I’m registered Republican and the town is 95 percent Democrat or Independent. I went against long, hard odds and I won by a landslide. What it is, people are ready to change and that was the whole idea about getting Rep. McCrery down.”

Here are some photos White sent of the inauguration. That’s his wife, Annie, holding the Bible as McCrery swears White in.


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