Rep. Wesley Bishop
State Senator District 4
What are your fondest memories of New Orleans East?
When I was 10 years old, I moved from the Lower Ninth Ward to the East and thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was 1980, and I was in a new, exciting place called Academy Park subdivision. There were lots of families, a lot of kids my age living there and we grew up together. We had Lake Forest Plaza, schools, parks, playgrounds, and a lot of family-oriented activities. It was fun being a kid growing up there – playing sports and enjoying the parks.
What is the community like today?
East New Orleans is the most engaged area of the city. There’s the East New Orleans Business Development District organization, an East New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission made up of four or five different organizations of people who all grew up in the same New Orleans East that I grew up in, and who want to make sure we get back there. There is no shortage of involved community members.
What were your goals after Hurricane Katrina?
I was elected in 2011 and had ideas about how to improve the quality of life. People need quality goods and services within a short proximity of where they live. Most of the people in the East are from here. They grew up here and aren’t going anywhere. We want to make sure the East can provide everything they need.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Bringing Wal-Mart back to the East. I went to a Young Leaders conference in Chicago right after I was elected. On the first day, everyone introduced themselves. One guy said he worked with corporate services for Wal-Mart. During a break, I met with him and I said, “We need you in New Orleans East.” He put me in contact with an office in Mississippi, and we got them to come back here. We went 10 years without a Wal-Mart. The first one to re-open on Bullard Avenue brought in $500,000 the first day. We now have two Wal-Mart stores. It makes all the difference, not just for goods and services, but for other businesses to follow.
What are your goals for the future?
We want businesses to have an opportunity to make money in the East. We are trying to get restaurants and more establishments out here. We have commercial spaces filling up, high-visibility spaces directly off I-10. The biggest project is to bring back the Lake Forest Plaza site. A dream project is a mall-like development with 20 different stores all tied together.
How is New Orleans East a prime location to do business?
We have 80,000 people in New Orleans East. We’ve got tons of parks, a football field and a track field. If you stood in the middle of the Lake Forest Plaza site and looked two miles in any direction, you would find ten of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city. Franklin Baptist Church is the biggest church in New Orleans East, and people are there every day of the week. There are ten different churches within a mile of each other. I’ve been working with the Department of Transportation on a signage program in New Orleans East. When you exit on Downman Road, you see a sign that points to all the attractions in the area. We got approved signs that will point drivers to the new hospital, hotels and the nature center. It’s a great advertisement for what’s available in the area and can point to other things we want to advertise..
How does the community work together on common goals?
We remember what drew us to New Orleans East. It’s my home and will continue to be my home. Elected officials and community leaders all work together and have one goal in mind: to make New Orleans East the dynamic community we know it can be and what it will be again. We are on our way.