Councilman Matt Talbert attacks Sterlington Mayor Caesar Velasquez for handling of town’s finances ahead of runoff

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 9:35 PM CST
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STERLINGTON, La. (KNOE) - Mayoral candidates in Sterlington made their pitch to voters in a forum on November 21.

Councilman Matt Talbert finished first in the primary earlier this month with 42% of the vote.

Incumbent Mayor Caesar Velasquez finished in second with 33%.

In the forum held at Sterlington Middle School, Talbert criticized Velasquez for helping the town get into debt before he was elected mayor.

“Twenty-five million dollars in debt,” explained Talbert. “That didn’t happen by accident. That happened in an open meeting by a vote of the council at that time.”

Plus, Talbert says when he was elected to the council in 2018, the mayor didn’t have a solution.

“We were called down to Baton Rouge, and the mayor was to present a plan for us to get out,” said Talbert. “There was a unanimous vote of that board to put us under fiscal administration cause there was no plan.”

The mayor said when he was on the council, he was misled by the former mayor and financial advisors.

Velasquez adds he has worked to bring down Sterlington’s debt since taking office.

“The Legislative Auditor did vote to give us a fiscal administrator, and that is because when we were given the option to come up with a plan, we had 30 days,” explained Mayor Velasquez. “At that point, we still didn’t know how far in debt we were.”

The mayor adds the town has set up an economic development district to bring in tax revenue to pay down debt.

On current priorities, Velasquez says public safety remains a concern.

“What I intend to do is make sure that we have enough people here,” Velasquez said of the police department. “We also have to make sure we are minding what our budgets are. We have to stay within our means and can’t spend money that we don’t have.”

Talbert says he wants to double the department’s size with existing money in the budget.

“In my opinion, a good police department in a town this size is eight to ten officers,” said Talbert. No police officer wants to be out on these streets by themselves.”

The runoff election is on December 10.