Vidalia seeks to build rapport with new leaders

Published 12:10 am Friday, December 19, 2014

VIDALIA The loss of an 18-year veteran senator on Capitol Hill should not impact funding for any of Vidalia’s current projects, but the city’s top leader says establishing a relationship with the new senator  will be key for future projects.

Republican Bill Cassidy, a Baton Rouge congressman, defeated U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in a Senate runoff earlier this month by a 12-point margin, costing Democrats the last U.S. Senate seat they held in the Deep South and the last statewide elected office they held in Louisiana.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said not having Landrieu in Washington, D.C., won’t necessarily impact the city moving forward.

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“I worked with the senator for 18 years and had built a good rapport with her, and she was very instrumental in a lot of our projects,” Copeland said. “We’re losing a very close friend and ally, but we just have to look forward and keep moving forward.”

Copeland supported Landrieu along the campaign trail through the election and spoke to Concordia Parish residents along with the senator during a campaign rally at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center just before the runoff.

Landrieu asked the mayor to travel with her to two other stops — New Roads and Monroe — to continue the campaign tour.

During those stops, Copeland spoke to residents about all the projects Landrieu helped the City of Vidalia accomplish through securing federal funds.

Among those include $1.5 million for the Vidalia port project, which is set to bring a slack water port facility just south of the Vidalia Riverfront.

Copeland said those funds, as well as other federal funds for projects such as the Vidalia broadband initiative, won’t be impacted by Landrieu’s defeat.

“Those projects have long been in the works and have already started, so none of those are in jeopardy because the funding is secured,” Copeland said. “But anything else that we’re working on, we’ll have to be sure to reestablish our rapport with our new delegation before moving forward.”

Copeland said those meetings would likely take place in February and March when he and other city officials travel to Washington, D.C.

The trip in February, Copeland said, will be to meet with representatives of the El Camino 5-State East/West Corridor Commission.

The El Camino Corridor — named after a historic Indian and Spanish trail — is 1,729 miles of U.S. 84 running from Brunswick, Ga., to El Paso, Texas. The commission was formed in 1989 with the goal of boosting economic development along the highway. For the last several years, the group has traveled to the nation’s capital to meet with congressional leaders to lobby for funding to four-lane the highway.

The trip in March will be for Copeland to attend the annual Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, where mayors from municipalities along the river gather to discuss the prosperity, sustainability and economic growth of the Mississippi River.

“Those are very important trips for those projects, but also to talk to our delegations to let them know what’s going on in our city,” Copeland said. “We’re just going to have to do what we’ve always done — sit down with our senators and congressmen, bring them up to speed on our projects and make sure they know how important those are to our region economically.”