This year marks the beginning of a new era for Natchitoches residents as Sen. Louie Bernard (R) starts his first year as state senator for District 31.
Previously held by Republican Gerald Long, District 31 encompasses parts of Rapides, Red River, Winn, Sabine, Grant and Natchitoches parishes. Northwestern State University is the district.
Bernard graduated from Northwestern State University with a degree in political science and history. He said he plans to support the university in every way possible.
“Northwestern is the economic engine of our district,” Bernard said.
Prior to winning his Senate seat, Bernard served on the Natchitoches Parish Police Jury in 1976, eventually becoming the jury’s administrator. He was clerk of court for Natchitoches Parish from 1992 to 2016.
Although Bernard didn’t have the senate seat on his radar following his retirement, he said circumstances came up. One was talk of reapportioning, the process of redrawing district maps.
“A lot of people were concerned that the boundaries of the district may not even include Natchitoches or Northwestern,” Bernard said.
He said he was alert to the issue and is determined to keep the city and university in the central part of the district.
In discussing higher education, Bernard said he will constantly work for adequate funding.
Bernard said higher education and healthcare are the only areas cut when the budget isn’t worked out.
“You can’t make Louisiana better if education is not central to the discussion of economic development,” he said.
Continuing to cut education, he said, will “make Louisiana plummet.”
On whether he’ll make efforts to work with Democratic Gov. Jon Bel Edwards while in office, Bernard said it is inconceivable for the legislature and governor to not try and get along.
The senator said he has always been able to work with and listen to others.
Bernard said he is going to the capital to work with everyone who is for making the state and higher education a priority.
“I’m going in there to work with every single one of them, and I hope that a lot of them feel the same way,” Bernard said.
The senator stressed his willingness to call back his constituents.
It is critical and important to him, he said, for the people to have access to their elected officials.