By Robert Mann
I’m sure when I arrived in his undergraduate economics course at Northeast Louisiana University (now the University of Louisiana at Monroe) in the spring of 1978, Professor Dave Norris took little notice of me. I was a journalism student who had scant interest in economics. As I recall, I did well in his class, but only after ferocious studying.
I knew Dave was running for mayor of West Monroe, a city in northeast Louisiana on the banks of the Ouachita River, known by many as the location for the hit TV series “Duck Dynasty.” I also knew Dave would probably win. What I didn’t know, however, was he would eventually play a large role in my life, as a constant teacher, wise mentor and loyal friend.
This Saturday night, 39 years later, I will be in Winnfield to watch as he’s inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame. Dave, 74, is still mayor of West Monroe, now serving an amazing tenth and final term.
After graduation, Dave and I met again when my newspaper, the Monroe News-Star, assigned me to cover West Monroe city government. I was immediately intrigued by this dapper, dynamic leader who had begun transforming his once-sleepy hometown (population 13,000) by driving and dragging it into the 20th century.
He was a brilliant man with an easy smile, a smooth singing voice (he’s been choir director of his Methodist church for decades) and a wicked sense of humor. He was a young mayor with a Ph.D. in business administration who applied business principles to running a city. The many reforms he enacted and the new West Monroe that he helped build were — and are — impressive.
For all of his almost 40 years in office, Dave has managed a scrupulous and efficient city government. He spent taxpayer money wisely and efficiently. Creative and innovative, he improved his constituents’ quality of life in dozens of ways.
If you want an example of a city government that works well and of citizens who have faith in the integrity and goodwill of their public officials, you’d do well to study West Monroe and the long, distinguished tenure of its mayor.
Could he have been elected to Congress? I believe so. I urged him to run several times. Would he have been a remarkable governor? I know few people in public life with his unblemished record of accomplishment, who are as smart, capable and self-possessed. Among elected officials in this state, he is the one I most respect.
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