LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)– Monique Blanco Boulet, one of the candidates running for Lafayette Mayor-President along with Josh Guillory and Jan Swift, answered some questions News 10 asked about her political pursuit and how she would address some significant issues. Early voting has begun for the Oct. 14 Gubernatorial Primary Election.
Born and raised in Acadiana, Boulet currently serves as the CEO of the Acadiana Planning Commission and leads the Acadiana Rural Fiber-to-the-home Initiative, the Acadiana Watershed Initiative, regional transportation planning and regional economic development. In these roles, Boulet coordinates major projects that are intended to improve the quality of life for families in Acadiana.
Before going into public service, Monique specialized in strategic business planning for a private-sector start-up oil field company. She was also involved in regional flood control strategies and projects to expanding LUSFiber across Acadiana.
Boulet earned her Executive MBA from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and is the daughter of Louisiana’s only woman governor, the late Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and the late Raymond “Coach” Blanco. Boulet and her husband David of 30 years have four children Kathleen, David, Zachary and Samuel.
Answers submitted to News 10 by Boulet have been edited for brevity and clarity
Why are you running for mayor-president?
Today corruption, waste and mismanagement are keeping us from ever reaching the potential we talk about in Lafayette. I know how to lead through complex issues. I know how to collaborate and I know how to get big wins. Lafayette Parish deserves a mayor-president who leads with integrity and gets real results, and I can confidently turn that potential into wins.
What sets you apart from other competitors?
Along with my MBA and background in business, I also have a proven 9-year track record of effective public service, across three Lafayette City-Parish administrations without corruption, waste or mismanagement. As CEO of the Acadiana Planning Commission, my experience is getting big wins with large scale transportation, drainage, broadband and economic development initiatives.
How did your background influence your decision to run? (familial, educational, etc.)
In 2015, the parish and police jury councils from throughout Acadiana voted to create and join the Acadiana Planning Commission. Since then and under my leadership as CEO, we have brought more than $250 million of investment in Acadiana, have built and developed the Acadiana Watershed District along with the Acadiana Rural Fiber to the Home initiative and worked on many transportation projects as region and landed large projects such as the more recent First Solar $1.1 Billion plant coming the Acadiana.
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?
While drainage and crime have both been neglected at critical levels, the challenge that must be handled first is stabilizing LCG itself. Many of the 29 audit findings are unlawful actions and threaten to shake the foundation of LCG itself. I want to bring transparency and credibility back to LCG.
We need to hire professionals to run our key departments; engineers to run public works, CPAs to run finance and others. We need to clean up the excessive legal activity that has been used in place of day to day management. We need to reestablish LCG as a credible jurisdiction with our state and federal partners.
What actions would you take with resolving the drainage issues in Downtown Lafayette?
I think we need to take the microscope off of downtown and look at the entire system. It’s true that downtown Lafayette experiences strong and increasingly frequent heavy rain events that overwhelm the drainage system, but that’s true of many locations in our parish. Coordinating and expanding efforts to upgrade the urban core’s system to protect residents and businesses is where our focus needs to be.
Moving forward with flood mitigation planning for downtown should be in the context of downtown’s priorities, incorporate best practices for storm water management in urban environments and encompass multiple scales and sites to store and manage storm water where it falls.
What actions would you take with unifying Lafayette Parish and city governments?
The city of Lafayette and Lafayette Parish are unified under one government, the Lafayette Consolidated Government. We need leadership that has a true respect for both and that understands how to lead an entire parish including its hub city, where growth and prosperity is achievable.
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 place great value in the jobs that our law enforcement officers do for this community. Feedback from police officers does indicate a problem with recruiting and retaining highly qualified officers. A substantial budget is needed for public safety. I am committed to fully funding a budget that reflects the needs of this community whether that is more or less than current funding.
There is a significant relationship between crime and mental health. For example, homelessness is a closely related issue that has escalated over the last couple of years in Lafayette. However, this problem cannot be solved through incarceration, but with recognizing indicators of mental health issues, we as a community are likely to handle these safety interventions properly.
Do you believe infrastructure in the city and parish need improvement, and if so, in what
ways? (explain three solutions, please)
Improving our infrastructure, including the construction of the I-49 Connector, developing our gateways and revitalizing the core of our parish, is critical to guiding our future growth. Strong leadership is ideal for these projects to preserve the urban core and neighborhood atmosphere while also communicating our unique passion for the culture we all cherish.
In addition, it is critical to begin looking at our largest investments in drainage from a knowledge-based perspective. There is expressed concern in our community that projects have not been chosen for their effectiveness. Bringing in expertise not influenced by the size or scope of a project is a critical first step.
What are your thoughts of the transparency within and coming out of LCG?
Transparency is crucial to establish accountability and repair the public’s trust in LCG, which has been broken time and time again by irresponsible leadership. It’s hard for residents to be proud of a government that has a history of concealing public information. I believe in enhancing transparency at all levels of government, and I am committed to promoting open communication and a culture of transparency in order to ensure the best interests of Lafayette and its residents.
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?
It will be a priority in my administration because I recognize how crucial it is. Our community needs growth that includes high-paying quality jobs, with good pay that our citizens can support their families with. We will make use of every available resource to attract emerging sectors like advanced manufacturing and IT and build upon established industries like energy, health care and tourism.
In my role as CEO of the Acadiana Planning Commission, I secured more than $250 million in investments for public infrastructure and economic development in the region. A high level of focus on strategic investments and collaborative initiatives is needed to drive robust economic growth.