By Manoj Rijal, New York: The first female mayor of Baton Rouge, the capital city of Louisiana in the southern part of the United States, believes that this is the time women are getting more opportunities in the mainstream of American politics.
“Women are having breakthrough moments in the political arena here in America,” said Sharon Weston Broome, mayor-president of the city of Baton Rouge in Louisiana State.
“For me, it was a very fulfilling experience to be the first female elected mayor of our city.”
Broome was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1956. She completed her initial schooling in this northern state before her parents moved to the southern state of Louisiana when she was a young lady.
Broome is not just the first female mayor of Baton Rouge, but also the second African-American to hold the position of a mayor in the city.
“Being the CEO of a city and of a county certainly gives me a lot of opportunity to help change the trajectory and thoughts about women in leadership positions and also gives me an opportunity to model for young women who have aspirations for public service or any other leadership role,” Broome said.
From her childhood, Broome was role modelling herself to be the one just like the successful women of her time.
“I came up admiring folks like Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African-American elected right here from New York to Congress, and who was very outspoken as a female leader. And then in the communications space, because my background is in communications and I grew up in Chicago, there was a reporter, an anchor by the name of Carole Simpson, whom I looked up to in the communications arena. So I would say women like Carole Simpson and Shirley Chisholm have certainly been role models for me.”
Since Broom became mayor in 2017, she has a number of focuses and one of them is the equitable growth of communities living in the city and her county.
“Strong cities are strong with equity and inclusion. So that’s a part of the fabric of our community that we are growing and continue to talk about,” Broome said.
“We have an initiative when we talk about equitable growth. Our emphasis is on reinvesting and uplifting non-invested communities through several plans and projects.”
One of the main challenges for her city and the state alike, however, is the flood control and water management.
The coastal areas of Louisiana state, along with the city of Baton Rouge, form the delta region of River Mississippi, as this largest river system of the United States drains water into the Gulf of Mexico.
Because of this peculiar geographical location, Louisiana state and its settlements always have to be prepared for flood, soil erosion and hurricanes.
And, not just the mayor of Baton Rouge herself, but her peers, too, are highly concerned about how to mitigate this chronic problem.
“The State of Louisiana is really in an existential crisis when it comes to its land. We are losing a football field of land every 100 minutes. We’ve lost around 2,000 square miles of land over the last few decades. This is almost equal to the size of a whole Delaware State,” said Justin R. Ehrenwerth, president of Water Institute of the Gulf that is based in Louisiana.
“We have developed a 50-year plan worth $50 billion to restore and protect the coastal Louisiana. It has been a key focus of our institute’s work.”
Despite challenges, Baton Rouge and the State of Louisiana also offer some tremendous business opportunities for the national and international investors.
Brookings Institute, one of America’s most reliable think-tanks, has recognized Baton Rouge as one of the top 10 U.S. cities for the millennials – the young generation kids born in or after 2000.
Likewise, the Center for Digital Government has noted Baton Rouge for being one of the top 10 digital cities of the U.S. for the fourth year in a row.
“When we talk about business development, our focus is primarily on six sectors: petro-chemical, software, healthcare, logistics, agriculture-based technology and business and the water sector,” said Russell Richardson, senior vice president of Business Development, Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We provide a host of incentives to the companies that invest in Louisiana. That may include a payroll incentive, a tax credit, a rebate or an exemption. Most of the incentives are administered at the state level, but there are local participation and approval on some of them, too,” said Richardson.
Baton Rouge city mayor Broome, Water Institute president Ehrenwerth and senior vice president of Business Development Richardson were speaking at a special program organized by the Foreign Press Center in New York.
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