Places & Faces
First Person with Mayor Nic Hunter
7/3/2018 10:07:06 PM
First Person

In April of last year, Nic Hunter was elected Mayor of Lake Charles and was sworn in on July 1. This month, we celebrate his first year in office. Hunter’s history in Lake Charles goes back to his childhood, when at a very young age, he bussed tables and washed dishes at his grandparents’ restaurant, Harlequin Steaks & Seafood. At age 17, he managed the restaurant full-time. Hunter graduated from St. Louis High School in 2002 and earned a BA in History from McNeese State University in 2007. He was elected to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury in 2011 and was in his second term of service when he won the mayoral election. In 2015, Hunter married Becky Jacobs, a local attorney. They welcomed their son, Harrison Edward, into the world last August. In each of his roles – entrepreneur, police juror, and now mayor – Hunter’s career has been defined by philanthropy and a love of this community. Thrive recently visited with the mayor, where he talked about his first-year accomplishments, his goals for Lake Charles’s future, and the importance of his own personal priorities.

As you grew up in your grandparents’ restaurant and learned the business, was there anything in those early experiences that helped prepare you for your current role as mayor? 
My grandmother grew up in the Great Depression, and her stories about her childhood and what they went through still resonate with me today. She had me start at entry level positions in the restaurant. I washed dishes, swept floors, and cleaned tables for years. I cannot stress the importance of work ethic enough. Hard work is essential for success. This sounds basic, but I don’t think everyone really gets that. I also worked with a diverse group of people from every spectrum of society, and we were a team. When you’re trying to work with five other people to feed two hundred, you’d better be working as a team. It was like being in a family. This taught me that diversity can be celebrated and can bring people together rather than apart, if used the right way. 

You majored in history at McNeese. What fostered this interest? 
Originally, I just took history classes as electives, but I fell in love. I realized this was a field that could help me in whatever path I chose for myself. I credit my history classes with sparking my interest in public service and politics. I wrote my senior thesis on Earl K. Long. The more I studied Louisiana political history, the more inspired I became to get involved. I thought, ‘Here is how I can really make a positive impact on my community.’

What have been your primary accomplishments in your first year as mayor? 
I am happy with what we have accomplished. My biggest accomplishment is the increased funding for enhanced drainage improvements for the City. We increased our drainage investment by 78% and we did this without raising taxes. We accomplished this through good fiscal policy and budget prioritization. We’ve launched several partnerships with the Community Foundation, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in private funds, not tax payer dollars, to enhance our parks and support veterans’ initiatives. The City Council recently approved the first step in creating economic incentive corridors for underserved areas of Lake Charles. We believe this will result in increased economic activity in these areas. We drastically reduced the amount of time property owners can allow their properties to remain eyesores. We have reenergized our recreation centers. Via a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, we now offer food to kids at our recreation centers after school. Teen Connections, Midnight Basketball, Mayor’s Youth Partnership, and the Mayor’s High School Roundtable have all allowed us to connect more with the youth. I am happy with our track record and our aggressive pace. We have accomplished much, and we have much still to accomplish. The most exciting things are yet to come. 
  
What has been your greatest joy in your role as mayor thus far?  Your deepest disappointment? 
My greatest joy is visiting kids at elementary schools. I love reading to them or talking to them about being mayor. They have the most interesting and sometimes funniest questions. My deepest disappointment was attending the funeral of a young boy who was shot by a home intruder. That was a very sad day and hard to get through as a father myself. I can’t imagine the pain of that family, and I pray for them daily.

What has been your greatest challenge? 
Finding enough time to do everything. I desperately want to meet with everyone who calls my office and attend every function I’m invited to. There just aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes and I don’t have a clone, so I can only be in one place at a time.

What has it been like, being a new dad and a new mayor, almost simultaneously? What have been the challenges of trying to excel in both roles?
Politics is not the most important thing in life. After God, family comes next. Really, they are almost one in the same, because when I look at my son, I see the work of God. Being a dad and a husband are the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had in my life, hands down. Being a mayor is definitely harder than being a husband or dad. My wife and I have a pretty good system. When I get home from the office or events, she feeds Harrison and bathes him. I get him ready for bed and read him a new story every night. The greatest feeling in the world is reading my son a bedtime story.

What are your goals for your second year as mayor of Lake Charles? 
Now that the Council has taken steps to create economic incentive corridors, we can get aggressive about development in the underserved areas of our city. Success will not happen overnight, but I believe we will see progress, specifically on the lakefront, I-10 corridor, and Enterprise Boulevard. My goals are the same as they have always been. We will focus on better drainage, enhanced public spaces, police and fire protection, crime reduction, traffic. My office dry erase board has over 60 current projects or new initiatives.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 
Thank you to this City. Thank you for trusting me. I take this job so seriously and, second to being a dad and husband, being mayor has been the greatest honor of my life. I also ask those who prayed for me during the election to continue those prayers. I’m filled with optimism and excitement. We are on the brink of historic progress and there is much more on the horizon for Lake Charles.
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