Through the years, the list of presenters at these luncheons has grown impressive: Dr. Richard Florida (author, Rise of the Creative Class), Steve Coll (two time Pulitzer Prize winning author of Private Empire, Ghost Wars, and others), political analyst Charlie Cook, economists Dr. Loren Scott and Peter Ricciutti, Ambassador Dennis Ross (author of Statecraft, recently retired from service in the Mid East), the late Matthew Simmons (energy analyst and author of Twilight in the Desert), John Barry (author, Rising Tide), former Congressman Mickey Edwards (VP of The Aspen Institute and author of The Parties vs. The People), U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, Congressman Charles Boustany, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and many others.
In the very first year of The IND’s Lecture Series in 2003, we introduced the concept of a State of the Parish Luncheon to the two candidates in the runoff election for City-Parish President. Both Joey Durel and his opponent Glenn Weber committed to the idea, and since then the SOTP luncheon has opened the Lecture Series each February. Unopposed in the years since, Durel has used the luncheon as a bully pulpit to announce and rally support for many key initiatives throughout his tenure: Safe Lafayette (and by association, Safe Schools); the idea of preserving UL’s former horse farm as a passive park, the first-ever comprehensive land use plan for Lafayette Parish, the LUS fiber-to-the-home network, a precinct system for police and the settling of a long-standing feud over police pay, plus a yearly overview of LCG’s budget and other general issues.
As dictated by charter, Durel is now in his third and final term. As dictated by his nature, he is not slowing down as his years in office wane. “We have a lot to talk about this year: consolidation fixes, annexation agreements, the horse farm, the allocation process (how “parish” government reimburses city government for work done outside of the city), comp plan, and the announcement of the Lafayette Entertainment Initiative,” he listed in an email to me this week. “I am in my final three years and have more goals I’d like to achieve.”
The luncheon is held at the Cajundome Convention Center and is a sell out every year. To help make the event more accessible, theatre-style seating is also available at no charge for those who want to come for Durel’s presentation only (without lunch), and AOC records the program to re-broadcast multiple times in the weeks following the event. Durel has certainly used the bully pulpit effectively throughout his term. You can expect this year to be just as eventful.