In a representative democracy it is the job of the elected leaders to act as a loud voice for the best interests of the people who have elected them to public office. Far too often the interests of other groups cloud the vision and purpose of elected officials, resulting in leaders who forget that the people elected them to do a job. Not Jay Dardenne.
Jay Dardenne is a prime example of a political leader who works every day to balance those multiple interests and maintain a political approach that best serves his constituents, the wider Louisiana community, and when possible, his own beliefs. A lifelong politician in the state of Louisiana, and native son of the Bayou, Dardenne is now preparing to step into the highest profile position in the state. As he does, the time has come to look at his beliefs, what he has achieved, and what he hopes to achieve in the state of Louisiana.
Dardenne was born John Leigh “Jay” Dardenne in Baton Rouge on 6 February 1954 to the late John L. Dardenne Sr. and Janet Dardenne (Abramson). He spent his entire youth in the Baton Rouge region of Louisiana, attending and graduating from Baton Rouge High School (1972), Louisiana State University (1976), and the LSU Law School (1979). Unlike many of Louisiana’s residents, Dardenne is a member of the Jewish faith. As a state and region settled by the French Creoles, Catholics and Protestants have long been the dominant religious groups in the state. Only 0.5% of Louisiana’s population follows the Jewish faith, but Dardenne was born into one of the state’s largest Jewish communities. Only Baton Rouge and New Orleans have significant Jewish communities.
As a political figure in the state, Dardenne was the first Jewish politician in the state in the 21st century and the first in over 100 years. Previously, Judah P. Benjamin served as a U.S. Senator from Louisiana prior to the American Civil War (and as Confederate Secretary of State) and Adolph Meyer (a Confederate Army officer) served as a Louisiana Representative in the U.S. House from 1891 to 1908.
His Mission and Major Accomplishments
As a politician in the state of Louisiana, Dardenne has moved from representing the interests of his native Baton Rouge to fighting for the brand identity and image of the state as a whole. His primary mission throughout his political career has been to make Louisiana “a better place to work, live, and raise a family”. Leading from the front by example, Dardenne has worked tirelessly over the years to show Louisianans that change can be achieved with a little bit of hard work. Alongside his political career, one of Dardenne’s biggest deeds has been in serving as chairman or president of no less than 10 non-profit entities in and around Baton Rouge.
For more than 30 years now, Dardenne has served as a host f or the Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy.
Often referred to as a Reagan Republican, Dardenne is seen as a champion of limited government and works to remove obstacles to progress. Dardenne’s political positions include serving as a Louisiana Senator for East Baton Rouge Parish (1992-2006), Secretary of State of Louisiana (2006-2010), and currently as the 53rd Lieutenant Governor under Bobby Jindal.
As a councilman in Baton Rouge, Dardenne authored a flood protection ordinance that prevented the construction of new homes in flood prone areas of the city. A law that is still on the books today, Dardenne’s ordinance has saved Louisianans and the state from the bur den and harm of flood devastation following storms and hurricanes.
Once Dardenne moved on to serve the state as a whole as Secretary of State, he would have a profound impact on the post-Katrina rebuilding and branding of the state. He worked to ensure elections following Katrina were free of fraud with so many residents displaced throughout the region.
He also worked tirelessly during this time to promote the rebuilding of businesses in Louisiana, and improve the state’s image as a magnet for business. The website GeauxBiz.com helped promote business investment in the state post-Katrina. The goal of his business efforts was to make it faster and easier for business to register with and open up shop in the state of the Louisiana.
Current Missions with an Eye on the Future
As Dardenne’s career has grown from a metro councilman in Baton Rouge to a major player on the state stage, he has now shifted his focus onto factors that impact all Louisianans. The creation of jobs, increasing tax revenue, and revitalizing the state’s vital tourism industry are all major goals for Dardenne.
As the Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, Dardenne has been leading the charge to revitalize the state’s tourism industry in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the pr ocess, the state has experienced record levels of growth in tourism. With one out of every 10 jobs in the state tied to its tourism industry, Dardenne was at the head of a charge that saw tourism rebound with 26.3 million visitors in 2012.
Those visitors spent a record $10.7 billion in the state of Louisiana and contributed $665 million in tax revenue. That tax revenue will go to help continue rebranding the image of Louisiana, and didn’t have to come out of the pockets of average tax payers in the state. According to Dardenne himself, “every place has a story to tell, but ours just happens to be better”. He proudly serves the state of Louisiana and is always on the march to promote its rich history and cultural diversity.
Going forward, Dardenne is preparing to step into the biggest role in the state of Louisiana. After serving two terms as Governor of Louisiana, incumbent Bobby Jindal will soon be leaving office. Dardenne has thrown his hat in the ring as a Republican candidate for the office of Governor of Louisiana.
His dogged determination to bring together the state, do what’s best for its citizens, and promote the values and benefits of Louisiana to the rest of the country might very well make Dardenne a great fit as governor. Whether Dardenne can capture the state’s highest office or not, will not be a reflection of his devotion to the state.
Dardenne’s career has been defined, and will continue to be defined, by the state in which he was born and raised. French Creole, Cajun, Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, Dardenne wants to promote the values of his home state to the rest of the country and internationally, and work to provide benefits f or all of Louisiana’s residents.