Mark it down—the next Commissioner from Southern Hills (District 10) will most likely be political newcomer Mario Chavez. And it will not be because this district suddenly has a high number of Hispanic registered voters but because this guy is the real deal! Chavez is a successful businessman who wants to use his life experiences to give back to the community that has not only welcomed him, but also provided him the opportunity to establish his own business.
Chavez is an energetic self employed transplant from California; he moved here in 1995 when his dad was transferred to Shreveport’s GM plant. Mario attended Southwood High School for a few years but dropped out when he was 17. He then found his way into the Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program at Camp Beauregard in Pineville. Chavez excelled not only in the military environment but also academically; he graduated with honors and was offered a position as a cadre to train other cadets.
Chavez returned to Shreveport, working 6 years for the phone company before joining the Louisiana National Guard where he was trained in advanced electronics. Subsequently his local employment was interrupted by two deployments—the first being hurricane duty in south Louisiana and then to Iraq for a year. Chavez volunteered to drive the front gun ship for convoys and was promoted to Sgt while serving in this hazardous duty.
After finishing this tour, he returned to Shreveport and employment in the telecommunications field. In 2004 and he formed his own company in merchant services– facilitating the transfer of funds from businesses to other businesses and to their customers. His company now handles everything from stand alone credit card terminals to complete inventory tracking systems and orders. Chavez also provides ATMs, manages web sites and builds custom mobile applications for business.
To his credit, Chavez was enlisted in the National Guard for 12 years —serving one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. He was activated for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Gustav. He considers his National Guard duty to be a privilege and he is a virtual walking billboard for service in the National Guard as well as the Youth Challenge Program.
Mario is concerned about the economic growth of Caddo Parish and is concerned about the continuing population loss in Shreveport as well as the parish. Having had his ups and downs as a juvenile, he understands the importance of youth rehabilitative programs and hopes to be actively involved as a Commissioner in the services and programs of the Caddo Juvenile Court and the Juvenile detention facility. And as a businessman, he understands the importance of fiscal management and the challenges of economic competition—traits certainly needed by Caddo commissioners.
Chavez is aware that many Southern Hills residents question the use of public funds by the Commission – including unmonitored $15,000 per year expense account for travel and meetings, pay raises to Commissioners and legal expenses defending an illegal retirement plan for Commissioners. Chavez is also concerned about getting a tenant(s) in the GM plant as well as the old AT&T plant. Living in an area that has struggled economically after plant closures by AT&T, GE and GM, Chavez is highly interested in the economic development efforts by the Commission.
Chavez is indeed a breath of fresh air in Shreveport politics, and especially in an era where elected officials like to hop scotch from one elected office to another. He does not consider his heritage to be a handicap—and in fact the is proud of his Hispanic roots that has not only given him a work ethic but also a deep appreciation for the free enterprise system. There is little doubt that Chavez will not only be successful in the October election but also that he will be a very positive addition to the Commission. Hopefully more concerned qualified business people like Chavez will step up and challenge incumbent Commissioners seeking re-election.