Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans

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Mitch Landrieu
Mayor of New Orleans
By Andrew Stevens

3 May 2010: Having twice failed to be elected as the city’s leader, Mitch Landrieu took office on 3 May 2010 as mayor of New Orleans. Formerly the state’s lieutenant governor, Landrieu is the son of a former mayor and sister of the state’s US Senator. Rather than rely on dynastic connections, Landrieu cites his self-discipline and commitment to service as being behind his governing approach for the disaster-hit city, both at state and municipal level.

Update February 2014: Mitch Landrieu re-elected for a second term with 64 per cent of the vote.

Born in 1960, Mitchell, the fifth of nine children to Maurice “Moon” and Verna Landrieu, was raised in uptown New Orleans and was schooled at its all-male Jesuit High School (as was his father). The school is notable for its educational attainment as over 99% of graduates attend college. Landrieu himself claims his Jesuit schooling instilled in him a sense of self-discipline and commitment to service. He graduated in 1978, going on to study political science and theatre at Washington DC’s Catholic University of America and later returning to New Orleans to receive a juris doctorate from its Loyola University Law School. He has, like his father before him, taught at Loyola Law and engaged in legal practice in the city, most recently as President of International Mediation& Arbitration Ltd. Landrieu claims his motivation here as bringing people together to find common ground.

As the son of a former New Orleans mayor (1970-1978) and sister of Louisiana’s US Senator (Mary Landrieu), the city’s politics could be described as being in his blood, though in his first election attempt and recent campaign, this dynastic quality was deployed against him by opponents. Landrieu’s political career began in 1987 when he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives for the city seat held by his father (1960-1966) and sister Mary (1980-1988), which he held for 16 years. While Landrieu speaks proudly of his making his mark as a reformer during his legislative career, his efforts to seek other office initially proved unsuccessful, such as his first run for mayor in 1994 (beaten by Marc Morial, son of his father’s successor as mayor). His second run for mayor also foundered when in 2006 he was defeated in the post-Hurricane Katrina re-election victory of Ray Nagin. Landrieu did however manage to be elected, twice, to the post of Lieutenant Governor of the state, serving as second in command to Democrat Kathleen Blanco (2004-2008) and then Republican ‘rising star’ Bobby Jindal (2008-).

Having originally denied any plans to run following the term limited Ray Nagin’s departure from office in 2010, Landrieu then announced his candidacy for the New Orleans mayoral election of February. In the February 6 poll, Landrieu scored 66% of the vote, obtaining a plurality in 365 of the city’s 366 voting precincts, avoiding any run-off. While his opponents stressed that on-going reconstruction of the hurricane-hit city required fresh leadership, Landrieu remained the frontrunner throughout the contest, comfortably winning over a wide field with little serious competition. He will assume office from Nagin on May 3 2010.

During his terms as Lieutenant Governor, Landrieu claims to have increased the state’s capacity for disaster response and homeland security. He also serves as the state’s CEO for the Department for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, where he spearheaded the World Economic Cultural Forum. He claims his approach to public service is based around five core governing principles: diversity as a strength, not a weakness; economic diversification and expansion; working regionally to compete globally; adding value to raw material, native talent and intellectual capital; and setting goals to international standards, not the southern average.

The Landrieu family name carries considerable weight in Louisiana’s political life and history. As well as the city’s mayor, his father served as state legislator and city councilmember, where he acted as a lone voice against racial segregation policies in the pre-civil rights era. He later went to become US Secretary for Housing and Urban Development in the Carter administration and then acted as a state appeals court judge. His sister Mary, before becoming a US Senator, was state treasurer and ran for governor in 1995. Sen. Landrieu is regarded as one of the most conservative Democrats serving in the US Senate.

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