City Social Magazine

MAR 2013

City Social Magazine in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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Page 21 of 67

125 Candles on Its Birthday Cake The City of Baker Looks to the Future The area that is now the city of Baker, having the precarious position of being located between Port Hudson and Baton Rouge, saw much of the fighting during the Civil, but nonetheless managed to survive as a community. Named for Josepheus Baker, one of its original landowners who settled there in 1888, Baker was once a remote train stop, eventually developed into a populace, and ultimately achieved status as a city when it was incorporated in 1944. But to newly elected city councilwoman Joyce Burgess, her hometown was not living up to its potential in 2011. Burgess, an educator and mother of five successful home-schooled young adults, began to see businesses leave, and though the school board and leaders of the educational system were working diligently to make the struggling schools better, the system was in limbo. A sense that Baker, located between Baton Rouge to the south with its mushrooming population, and Zachary to the north, was in decline troubled Burgess. She had married and raised a family in this town and knew it was the place she would spend the rest of her days—prosperous and fulfilling days. "I felt if I was going to continue to live in this community, there must be something I could do to help it, and in order to have some measure of influence, I decided at that point that I was going to run for office," said the first black woman elected to the City Council. "You can sit and complain or you can do something. I have always been an admirer of Lindy Boggs who, after the death of her husband, Louisiana Senator Hale Boggs, filled his seat in the U.S. Senate. Mrs. Boggs went on to establish her own political career and made the remark (and I'm paraphrasing) that if a woman can bear and raise children, she can run a nation, so with the encouragement of my husband and family, I made the decision to seek office." Taking office in July, 2012, Burgess began a house-to-house campaign in September of 2011 in her area, District 3, to meet her neighbors and ask them to express their concerns and propose recommendations on improving their city. Her vision of improvement was to implement ARC, attract, renew, and create: Attract high economic growth with new businesses, renew the love of learning in Councilwoman Joyce Burgess 22 Read us online at By Rosalind Tuminello Photos by Williams Photography the hearts and minds of the city's children, and create a positive determination for community involvement to bring prosperity to the place where she had lived for 30 years. Councilwoman Burgess, respected and recognized for her work with children as well as for her successful endeavors through her home schooling of public school children, scoffs at the erroneous description of Baker as only a retirement community. "We do have many senior citizens in our community, and I am very happy about that; they are the strong fabric of a society. However, with five schools here, the assumption that there are few young resident families is way off," she said with a chuckle. Since taking office, Burgess has quickly established herself as "let's get started" member of the City Council. The politician has definite plans for moving Baker forward: She created a concerned citizens' group through her "Sit down with Councilwoman Burgess," hosted her first town hall meeting, and created a citizens' enforcement committee. Burgess views Baker as a rich old walking community, a comfortable and safe place to live and work, pointing out that the crime rate that had never been high can boast of a further decrease in criminal activity, thanks to the efforts of the Baker Police Department, which she describes as "Baker's Finest." A visionary, the first-time office holder is excited about the role the city will play in its children and preparing them for careers. She visualizes the formation and construction of a children's math and science technology center, where young minds will be afforded hands-on applications of math and science to stimulate their interest in these fields, which are becoming so vital to the global present and future. "We in Baker are fortunate to have the support of major companies such as Entergy, CocaCola, Southern University, and Exxon. In the not-so-distant future, as the workforces of these companies age and retire, I am hoping that our children will be prepared academically to fill these positions. The center could be funded through public and private contributions," the councilwoman explained. In 1888, plantation owners like Josepheus Baker saw the area as a place of rich resources and promise. While no longer a brief stop on a railroad line, Baker still possesses those qualities its settlers saw, and as Joyce Burgess exclaims, "Come over and enjoy our town—its restaurants, churches, and library, and if you want to open a business, we heartily welcome you."

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