The possibility of the City of West Monroe seeing the first Black person elected to its Board of Aldermen has become more likely.
As a result of a federal lawsuit, the city has adopted a new method for electing the board which is designed to more easily allow for a Black candidate to be elected.
Instead of electing five candidates at large to serve on the board, the city's new plan will elect two at-large aldermen while three other members will be elected from within three newly drawn districts.
Following the terms of the city's settlement with the Department of Justice, the city was split into three single-member districts:
District 1: Northern West Monroe, north parts of Cypress Street and Arkansas Road
District 2: Parts of Well Road to the Ouachita River
District 3: Southeastern parts of West Monroe
Rodney Welch, a local businessman who announced his candidacy for alderman of District 3 on Jan. 3, said the new redistricting makes it more conducive for electing a Black alderman, especially since the communities within the district are predominately African-American.
"With the new districts consisting of the Quarters area, downtown West Monroe, and over to the Lane, that district is mostly minorities," Welch said. "With that being said, that definitely makes it more apt that a minority representative be elected."
Nora Collins, another potential candidate for the District 3 alderman seat, said Black representation on the West Monroe Board of Aldermen is needed. Collins said when railroads were blocking communities on the south side of the city, no one knew the answer or could explain why.
"Representation as an alderwoman or alderman will be great because we can get connected to the board and find out what's going on for our community," Collins said. "I think it is very reasonable, but once we get someone in place it'll be better."
Anthony Holmes, who has expressed qualifying for a candidacy in the race, said it is time for a Black person to elected to the Board of Aldermen.
"I believe it will be a hard transition, but a Black alderman is much needed in this area," Holmes said.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the City of West Monroe in April 2021, alleging that the existing method of electing the West Monroe Board of Aldermen resulted in black citizens in West Monroe having less opportunity than white citizens to participate in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
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The city settled the lawsuit when the Board of Aldermen agreed to implement the new election method in time for the March 2022 elections.
The City of West Monroe requires prospective candidates to be eligible to vote in West Monroe and to hold no other public office from which they are entitled to receive remuneration or per diem compensation, except that of notary public or membership in the National Guard or reserve defense establishment.
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Members of the board must be age 21 or older, a resident of the city for one year and a resident of Ouachita Parish for at least two years by the time of qualification. Members of the board must not have been convicted of a felony, according to the city requirements. Candidates for single-member district seats on the board of aldermen must reside in the district for which they are running.
Qualifying for the aldermen's race starts Jan. 26 and ends Jan. 28. Qualified candidates will be posted on the Louisiana Secretary of State's website.
Election day is March 26, with early voting starting March 12 and ending March 19.
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This article originally appeared on Monroe News-Star: First-ever Black West Monroe alderman could be elected after redistricting