By now, you have probably noticed that Mayor Tom Arceneaux displays prominently and frequently a lapel button that says, “I Love Shreveport” with a heart. Locals are picking it up and running with it…without being asked. Mayor Arceneaux’s wife, First Lady Elizabeth Arceneaux, has been a permanent fixture not only on the campaign trail but during his administration. He even referred to her as his “secret weapon” in his announcement for his candidacy. I thought both should be included in this interview about this theme that has organically taken on a life of its own.

Where did the pins come from? Did you guys make them or have them made?

Tom: At my inauguration I had stickers…The idea for the sticker and the “I [Heart] Shreveport” came from Joe Sampite, the long-time mayor of Natchitoches. Everywhere Joe went he had stickers that said, “I [Heart] Natchitoches.” At the time I thought it was kind of corny, but the more I reflected on it, the more I thought he was really onto something. He created a whole sense of pride in Natchitoches. So I said, ‘Why don’t we try it in Shreveport?’ So that’s why it was in the inaugural address. Over time, people kept asking for something more permanent than stickers. One day, my Chief of Staff, Tari Bradford, said BRF wanted to do a photo op at its offices. When I got there, they gave me two boxes, each of which had 1,000 of these buttons in them. I had had a few buttons made, but literally a handful. So I was very cautious who I gave them to because I didn’t want to run out. So now we had 2,000 of them, and they lasted about three or four months. Then, we ordered 2,500 more (“Twice,” Elizabeth clarifies). The second

batch lasted a couple months so we ordered another 2,500 that we just got in a little while ago.

This seems entirely organic to me. Are you guys surprised it’s caught on like it has?

Eliazabeth: Well, it is surprising but it’s something that when Tom was presenting these, it was really taking pride in the city. When you see someone else caring and loving your city, then automatically others will care about it. I think you said it the right way, it’s organic, it’s really more of a movement. To see that… that’s so wonderful, I’m so glad that other people love our city, and I’m hearing it more and more. Tom wears a button every day, and everybody wants one when they see it, ‘Where can I get those?’ We have them for free at the mayor’s office, they have a bowl with these at the entry, you can take one… we just ask that you wear it. But they’re free, ant there wasn’t city money involved. 

Tom: The thing that surprised me is that a large number of people wear them. They don’t just wear them when we give them to them, they wear them out in public, and people say, ‘Ilove that, where’d you get that? Well the mayor gave it tome,’ or ‘I picked it up at the mayor’s office,’ or ‘So and so gave it to me.’ These are people that say ‘I’d like to have some of those to hand out’ and we’ll give them a handful to do that.

Tom, You recently spoke to a class at LSUS about self-image for shreveport. We’ve had a negative self-image, and and you’re out to improve that, so obviously you’re seeing something that others aren’t… What is it you see in this town that makes you love it so?

Tom: It’s full of energetic, creative, dedicated people. I think that it’s merely a matter of harnessing the energy that they have and getting them to move in the same direction. The bond election was a good example of that. We ended up with really broad-based support from a lot of different corners of the community, we’re pulling the same direction, and we ended up with a great result, and we’ll end up with some terrific projects as a result of it. I chose to move back here in 1979 because I thought the city ha a lot to offer. It’s a large enough to have amenities of a mid-size city, it’s small enough to know an awful lot of people and to be able to fit a very small town that can be really cliquish, and Shreveport has never been cliquish to me. I moved here without any real connections and so everything that has happened is because people opened doors for me.

50 Cent obviously loves this town now… just between the conversation you guys have had what has he said about it?

Tom: He really likes the fact that we’re able to get things done, and we were able to move the transactions for hi, very quickly. He wants to do some things that he thinks will be transformative for the city, and he is finding people willing to cooperate with him to do that. He appreciates that, I know that his professional people really appreciate it.

Have you guys seen favorable treatment for Shreveport from outside actors like D.C. or Baton Rouge?

Tom: I think we get our share from D.C. and we’re working on increasing that share. All of north Louisiana struggles from Baton Rouge because two-thirds of the Louisiana population is below I-10. That really skews the legislative process in favor of communities below I-10. So I would say that we probably get a little less than our share, but we get our share compared to other north Louisiana communities.

Where do you guys see this movement going on now?

Tom: I think people will continue, and we hope it will continue and spread.

Do you see that 80% yes for the bond as a big sign of belief in Shreveport?

Tom: I do, I think the margin of approval was really significant… I was thinking more in terms of 60-65%. In fact, I lost a steak dinner based on the outcome (laughs), I had bet somebody that it would be 70 or below and I told them that if it was above 70 I’d buy them a steak dinner.