Last month the Shreveport City Council elected Willie Bradford to be its Chairman for 2016; this vote could very well be the most definitive action that this council will take in its 4 year term, which began in December 2015. James Flurry, Bradford’s closest ally on the Council, was elected Vice Chairman; Bradford and Flurry assumed their positions at this week’s Council meetings.
Four members of the current Council are first timers—Bradford. Flurry, Jerald Bowman and Lynch; all but Flurry are black. The incumbents– Everson, Oliver Jenkins, and Mike Corbin– are white and they are term-limited. This group will undoubtedly be the last majority white Council for the City in the foreseeable future.
Lynch was probably the best known of the “newbies”, having previously served on the Parish Commission. Her prior public office experience along with her race was the basis for her selection as vice chair. True to her track record on the Commission, Lynch was often antagonistic in her public remarks—resulting in a poor public image of the Council as a whole.
Bradford had sought the Chairmanship last year when first elected; returning Councilman Jeff Everson was elected as the chair and newcomer Stephanie Lynch was named the vice-chair. The normal protocol would have been for Lynch to succeed Bradford—but many factors came into play that lead to a total change in direction by the other Council members.
Bradford’s temperament, community involvement, and business background clearly set him apart from all the other Council members from day one. Bradford came from a humble beginning; when he announced for office the said his proudest accomplishment was his marriage to his high school sweetheart and their 3 college educated children. Having been through many political battles over the years in civil organizations, Bradford had earned the respect of most leaders in the black community.
Bradford’s alliance with fellow councilman Flurry is unprecedented for many reasons. Bradford is a “yellow dog” black Democrat and Flurry is an old line white Republican from Southern Hills. Neither knew the other until their run off victories; now they are social friends and political allies serving as the Chairman and Vice Chairman. Together they represent a political force that demands the respect of the other Council members as well as the Mayor’s office.
Bradford has been employed by Willis Knighton for 22 years and currently serves as a Project Neighborhood Coordinator. Although he was widely respected among WK employees and its business affiliates, Bradford was basically an unknown to the white business/political community until he ran for the Council in the summer of 2014. Since then, he has maintained a high political profile throughout the City while aggressively addressing the problems of his district which has historically been the poorest in Shreveport. Bradford is concerned, and rightly so, that Shreveport has become a stagnant city with no real progress in economic growth.
Bradford is definitely his own man, and he is not a pawn for political group or power base. He is well positioned to provide leadership to the City that has not been forthcoming from Mayor Tyler and he is determined to not just baby sit the status quo. Hopefully the other council members will support Bradford’s efforts and endorse a new political regime.