At this morning’s “groundbreaking” ceremony the initial moments were occupied with the obligatory remarks and reminiscences by officials and influentials. Much of the remarks were actually interesting—Durel again reiterated his promise that the Fiber project “over-deliver” and struggled to voice his enthusiasm by saying “We are gonna knock your socks off.” Purvis Morrison, representing the council as vice-chair read a short bit by new council chair Don Bertrand who played a large leadership as a private citizen during the fiber fight. Those remarks focused on the hope that the community’s goal of becoming “most connected city and parish in the country has taken a huge step forward.” Morrison, who represents a rural part of the parish that isn’t currently slated for service, made it clear that it was his hope that Bertrand wasn’t just being politic when he referred to the parish. He wanted fiber brought to his rural part of the parish.
But it was the reminiscences that intrigued the historian in me. Especially interesting was Randy Menard’s story. Menard was a member of the outgoing council that backed LUS fiber before that was an easy thing to do and which soldiered through the worst of the battle to secure it. His recounting pushed the story back more years than any tale I had heard before. Apparently Terry Huval recommended that council members attend an American Public Power Association conference in Toronto that planted the idea of a community communications network—12 years ago. On Menard’s retelling he went and came back an advocate. A fiber ring for city use came up later and was eventually built. When a discussion about trying to get other people to build a fiber network in the city came up Menard says he asked Huval “Why aren’t we doing that ourselves?” Huval’s careful answer was that some people up the line weren’t in favor. Translated: the then-current administration had put the kabosh on it. Menard and Ardoin, a former councilman, worked around that opposition. Menard, who does not live in the city proper, jokingly expressed a desire to be annexed. (I won’t be surprised if that desire becomes more widespread.) Apparently there was a time when Huval was not the most enthusiastic proponent of further extending fiber…but that changed. On Mayor Durel’s recounting Huval set him down even before his inarguration and laid out a plan to offer fiber to the home. When Durel committed to its support the course was fixed.
The rest, as is said, is history.
Correction: In the original version of this post I wrote Menard when I should have written Mouton …Mustaches, “M” names, recent retirement, and a southern parish district…Mea Culpa.—A hearty thanks to the reader who pointed out my error.
Correction to the Correction: Ok, I was wrong about being wrong. It was Randy Menard and after talking to others who were there I am now confident about that. I still need to absolutely confirm that Menard lives outside the city—that’s what my evidence shows, but… Anyway, a hearty thanks to the anonymous reader who encouraged me to think I might not be in error. 🙂