LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)– Jan Swift is one of the candidates running for Lafayette Mayor-President along with Josh Guillory and Monique Blanco-Boulet. With early voting for the Oct. 14 Gubernatorial Primary Election starting Saturday, News 10 asked each candidate questions for them to address some of the issues and their stances on them.
After moving to Lafayette in 1983, Swift currently serves of counsel with Swift & Rhoades, LLP, with a focus on real estate transactions. Swift graduated from LSU and LSU Law School and has served as a Lafayette Consolidated Government assistant pity-parish attorney where her duties included legal work for the Office of Community Development.
When she served as Louisiana deputy secretary of state, Swift was in charge of the department’s budget and personnel issues and collaborated with the Louisiana Legislature. In 2021, Jan served as chair of the Protect the City Committee, where she evaluated the allocation of the tax dollars generated by the city of Lafayette.
Other positions she is currently serving or has previously served as include executive director of Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation, interim director of the Leadership Institute of Acadiana and the Lafayette Parish Bar Association, chair of the Lafayette Parish Industrial Development Board and a District 4 representative on the Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee.
Boards she has been involved with include the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and its executive committee, the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Hilliard University Art Museum, Lafayette Parish Education Stakeholders Council, Chorale des Amis and Boys and Girls Club of Acadiana.
Swift not only finds pleasure in walking, yoga, solving Sudoku puzzles and reading, but she also enjoys her podcast Discover Lafayette, which she has been hosting and producing since April 2017. Swift and her husband, John, have two daughters, Taylor and Kelly, a rescue puppy and a rescue cat they regularly babysit.
Answers submitted to News 10 by Swift have been edited for brevity and clarity
Why are you running for mayor-president?
With Lafayette being at the crossroads, I have faith that we can be much better than we have been in the past if we have the proper leadership. I bring the temperament of a public servant who wants to restore trust and faith in government. Lafayette Parish’s future cannot be stolen from our children by insider deals, political bargains and outrageous waste of financial resources aimed at benefiting a small group of financially influential people.
I am committed to using our tax dollars wisely and will misspend our hard-earned dollars on needless lawsuits and dubious drainage projects being conducted with no master plan for drainage. Our property rights have been trampled on by quick-take expropriation and the only people benefitting are the contractors and lawyers who have defended LCG in court.
What sets you apart from other competitors?
I have been active in civic affairs in this community for the past 40 years. Unlike the other people in this race, my registered party has never changed. I am the only life-long Republican, having been one for 42 years.
Not only do I have experience as a small business owner, but I am a fan of small government, not big government. I believe the government should help people who cannot help themselves, and I think people should tell the government what to do, not the other way around. After conducting over 330 interviews with my podcast, I have a deep understanding of our community’s strengths and weaknesses.
How did your background influence your decision to run? (familial, educational, etc.)
My extensive background in community issues makes me the most qualified candidate. I’ve always loved public service and would be honored to serve our great community. Educationally, spiritually, emotionally and temperamentally I’m qualified to be Mayor-President
I think it’s important that we have an on-balance leader who doesn’t have any political axes to grind or any political debts to repay. It would be easy for Lafayette to grow into a city like Dallas but we would lose our cultural charm and identity.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Lafayette today? (emphasize just one challenge) What are three solutions you would consider for solving this challenge?
The biggest problem our community now faces is too few people making too many decisions helping a small number of people. Taxpayers deserve service, access to decisions and a full understanding of what is being done to them by those in elective office. That means, many should be making decisions for the many who must live with those decisions.
We are losing our young talent to other places in the South. I will work tirelessly to court new business opportunities and jobs for Lafayette’s residents, as well as promote the many advantages Lafayette offers both young people and retirees who are looking for a permanent home in which to enjoy their senior years.
What actions would you take with resolving the drainage issues in Downtown Lafayette?
We desperately need a comprehensive drainage plan whether or not we’re talking about downtown or parish wide. Recently, we have witnessed action over planning and don’t know the cumulative effect of these projects or what the maintenance costs will be.
I understand there may be design and defect problems with the latest drainage project at Jefferson Street and Lee with water intrusion. I support the construction by LUS of the major sewer lift station to provide additional sewer capacity for approximately 2000 residential units downtown and the surrounding areas.
What actions would you take with unifying Lafayette Parish and city governments?
It doesn’t matter whether you live in the parish, the unincorporated areas, incorporated areas or any of the towns or municipalities in Lafayette Parish, we all want the same thing: safety and security, the ability to earn a great living and an accountable government.
I believe we save money in many ways by keeping services consolidated and will work with both the city and parish council to accomplish our parish’s overall needs. Because I believe it is important to work closely with all of our municipalities and their elected leaders within Lafayette Parish, as Lafayette Mayor-President, I will bring collaboration in working with all of the mayors, city councils and their respective departments.
Do you see the current funding of law enforcement (sheriffs and police) as not enough, adequate, or too much? Why? Are you aware of the efforts towards integrating mental health professionals into the police dept.?
I am in favor of increasing funding for our city police department. As immediate past-chair of Lafayette Crime Stoppers and a community adviser to our Lafayette Police Department, I am aware of the efforts to integrate mental health professionals into the police department.
The areas surrounding downtown contain the biggest problems with homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health issues, which are currently being handled by our city police, who are not adequately equipped or trained to handle by themselves. We are 42 police officers short.
Do you believe infrastructure in the city and parish need improvement, and if so, in what ways? (explain three solutions, please)
Yes, we need a master plan for improving the conditions of our roads. We see streets in wealthier areas of town and the parish being overlaid, but not in the majority of our parish, and we have approximately 1,000 miles of roads in Lafayette Parish and can’t get by with only 240 miles being repaved.
Second, we need a master plan for drainage. We have been digging holes without the science to back it up and have witnessed incredible losses due to litigation, settlements, and stalled projects costing us tens of millions of dollars.
Third, we don’t adequately take care of our parks, the Heymann Center and the Cajundome. Our public assets are deteriorating and these facilities contribute to the quality of life for our citizens. I will surround myself with a blue-ribbon team to adequately plan and identify the best ways to improve these three areas of infrastructure improvements.
What are your thoughts of the transparency within and coming out of LCG?
I am running to restore an honest and effective government that shares public records freely without delay. There is no transparency in LCG at this point. This is exemplified by the fiasco of taking out the spoil bank on property in St. Martin Parish, using Lafayette tax dollars without the knowledge or consent of the Lafayette City Council, the 1/3 owner of the land, the St. Martin Parish government and the Corps of Engineers.
In your eyes, what is the status of economic development within Lafayette and Lafayette Parish? What is the level of focus that is needed for the economic development within Lafayette and Lafayette Parish?
Where there is an abuse of public trust by elected leadership, there can be no real economic development. Where there are too few people making too many decisions for a favored few, like Lafayette government, jobs will not come, the young and talented will flee, and eventually the middle class will be eroded.
Our current administration has not focused on economic development. The opportunities to effectively partner with LEDA and UL-Lafayette to market Lafayette’s potential have not been pursued. I bring experience in working in economic development, having served as Executive Director of Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation as well as Chair of the Lafayette Parish Industrial Development Board.