Leadership is often thought of as a person sitting behind a desk or standing on the verge of battle simply barking orders. While a major part of leadership is communicating actions that are to take place, there are far other aspects of being a leader that must happen to insure that the leader is affective. Qualities of political leadership such as foresight, understanding how a decision will correlate to the good or bad for the constituents, and how to work with other elected officials to achieve a final goal are all parts of what is required to be an effective leader. One example of this is the foresight shown to help improve the commerce of a local impoverished parish that was rich in mineral resources.
In 1924 The Louisiana Mill in Bastrop was constructed to produce paper from pine timber. Then is 1925 International Paper bought the pulp and paper operation. Much of the land surrounding the mill was agriculture in nature and contained no pine growth. The east side of the Ouachita River was in the Mississippi and Ouachita River flood plains and while it grew good cotton it did little to provide the much needed pulp for the paper industry. Across the Ouachita River in rural and impoverished Union Parish the story was different. Massive growths of pine timber were waiting to be cut. Saw mills were present within the parish but this did not make a dent in the large expanse of timber growing in the hill country of this parish.
In 1928 Huey Long was elected to become governor of Louisiana. He had a problem in that he was also a member of the Louisiana Public Service Committee. This was a six-year elected position and he still had two years left on the term. Long looked to his law partner and selected him to take over his PSC seat. This new member of the PSC had a genuine desire to promote the commerce of the local economy and at one time approached the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Bayou D’Arbonne in an attempt to bring barge traffic from the Ouachita River to Farmerville and Union Parish. In 1929 the great depression took place and the local economy was even more adversely affected.
If Union Parish had a direct transportation conduit to the paper mill at Bastrop a new income stream would be developed. Eventually a bridge was constructed across the Ouachita and Union Parish no longer needed to ferry goods and services across the river. The governor that built the bridge was O.K. Allen, a hand picked successor to Long for the governorship when Huey went to Washington as Senator. Allen and our local Public Service Commissioner were close friends and this undoubtedly helped with acquiring a bridge across a river in rural north Louisiana that no one in Baton Rouge would have seen little value in the construction. What it did was open up a corridor that allowed Union Parish timber to flow to the Bastrop Mill for over half a century and provided much needed income to Union Parish. It also allowed Union Parish residents to easily reach the new chemical plants that sprung up in Sterlington.
The leadership requiring this accomplishment was not simply barking orders. It took a vision of what could be and then working with others to accomplish this vision. This is the type of leadership we desire from our elected officials. These individuals do exist and once petty political party rivalries disappear we can once again work as a single America and once again resume building the greatest country in the history of the world.


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