Ater was model leader for everyone

Published 3:38 am Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Unfortunately these days, honest and trustworthy are words rarely used to describe your average elected official.

Fortunately for our community, Al Ater was not an average elected official, and he was, indeed, rare.

The Ferriday farmer and businessman died Sunday at age 63, succumbing to cancer.

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Many of those who knew Ater have tried over the last few days to describe the man they knew, loved and respected.

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell said, “He had more common sense than anyone I’ve been around. He could get to the heart of an issue in about two seconds.”

While serving as interim Louisiana secretary of state just after Hurricane Katrina, Ater faced a significant challenge — how do you conduct a fair election for the City of New Orleans when a significant number of voters were forced to move all over the country after the storm.

Ater helped delay the election for months in order allow time for the infrastructure to be rebuilt and obtain legislative permission to have satellite voting around the state to ensure any New Orleans voter’s choice was counted.

It would have been easy to simply work toward a simple solution, but for Ater the world was about being fair and doing what’s right, even when doing so was difficult. He led a staff that managed to pull off the New Orleans elections against extraordinary odds. That Herculean effort may be the capstone of his political career, but for members of our community that was nothing but Ater just being true to himself — caring, hardworking, unafraid to make others upset if he felt he was doing the right thing.

For dozens upon dozens of locals who knew Al Ater, he will be remembered for being a smart, caring friend who loved his fellow man, loved his family, his God and loved this community.

Ater will be deeply missed here, but we hope his unselfish spirit and burning desire to treat others fairly serves as a model for the rest of us. He may not be with us in body, but Ater’s legacy can certainly live with us for generations to come.