On Thursday, a community meeting was held at the New Morning Star Baptist Church Genesis Center to discuss the city of Bastrop. The evening's discussion was framed around three questions, "Where we are?" "Where we should be?" and "How do we get there?"
Different community and leaders addressed this topic relative to Bastrop throughout the evening, including the featured speaker Jamie Mayo, mayor of monroe and Morehouse Parish native.
Mayo spoke about his job as mayor and how the city of Monroe sets objectives and uses a tool known as SWOT analysis, or identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats a community faces.
Within his brief discussion of Bastrop's strengths and weakness, he reflected on the closure of the mill as a weakness, but also reminded the audience that good can come from bad.
"There are some good things that happen from negative things," Mayo said by using examples pulled from how the city of Monroe has developed over the last several years.
Representatives from different community organizations also spoke as part of a panel. Crystal Stewart Washington, 21st Century Project Director for the Morehouse Parish School Board, discussed educational accomplishments from within the parish and talked about upcoming initiatives including the summer feeding program and the summer reading program.
Kay King, President/CEO of the Morehouse Economic Development Corporation, talked about how Bastrop compiled a redevelopment plan in 2010 that helped address how the community would move forward without International Paper, and she encouraged follow-up on that plan and for residents to stay hopeful.
"We still have work to do before Bastrop makes a full recovery," King said, "but stay optimistic. We are making progress."
Louis Melton, a school board member representing District 2, reminded the community that it is a family and addressed the possibility of increased taxes being needed to support the school system. "We need your help," Melton said, "We need to get taxes passed."
Former Bastrop Mayor Clarence Hawkins, who is now the USDA Rural Development State Director for Louisiana, also talked about the possibility of the Morehouse Parish community, both as individuals and organizations, receiving loans, grants and technical assistance, particularly if a plan were developed and priorities established.
"Individual responsibility is going to have to take place first," Hawkins said.
The organizers of this community meeting hope to continue these discussions in the future.