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Darnell Waites: A Mayor Who Weathered the Storm

Darnell Waites

After a distinguished twenty-seven (27) year career in the military, retiring with the esteemed rank of First Sergeant, Darnell Waites set his sights on applying his skillset to continued public service. Waites married April Johnson, who also served in the military, and they have four children. Waites has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from Ashford University and an Associate Degree in Applied Sciences from Excelsior College. He also graduated from the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy.

Waites and his family moved to Baker, Louisiana in 2009. He served as a teacher and the high school basketball coach for the City of Baker School System. Waites and his family resumed a life in public service as civilians. The community could clearly see Waites’ passion and zeal for helping students succeed in academics, sports, and his ability to lead.

Former Mayor Harold Rideau hired Waites as his Administrative Officer in 2013 and in April 2016, Waites was elected Mayor for the City of Baker. A few months later, the unthinkable occurred, the tragic, life-altering “Great Flood of 2016”, which devastated East Baton Rouge Parish.

The Great Flood of 2016 was challenging for “seasoned leaders, who had spent their entire lives preparing for such a monumental undertaking. Homes, businesses, and infrastructure were decimated. The newly elected Mayor of Baker, however, was able to use his training and experience from his years of military service and his unwavering lifelong commitment of serving, to forge ahead. With the hopes of improving the lives of others, Mayor Waites was able to move through the heart wrenching adversity and the City of Baker recovered.

Mayor Waites and his team continue throughout his tenure, the battle to improve infrastructure so that this scenario never harms the citizens of Baker again.

As he neared the end of his first term, he was struck again by the unimaginable –the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Again, the citizens of Baker’s interests are his main concern. An unknown pathogen is killing thousands of people worldwide, where there is no cure and experts are trying to learn how to manage it. As a leader, it is imperative to protect your community.

Mayor Waites stepped up to take responsibility for and make the hard decisions: To limit exposure, to limit gatherings, reaching out to the community by phone, social media, telephone, and email to make sure everyone was kept informed. At the same time, he was working tirelessly with our representatives at the parish, state, and federal levels to obtain assistance and acquire the most accurate and recent information for our community.

Being able to work through these calamities, as well as the good times, requires something special – the desire to promote unity. During his tenure, he has sparked an aggressive theme of unity in the city government, civic groups, and the faith-based community. Mayor Waites believes in the importance of diverse viewpoints and building coalitions that make progress towards a cultivated and productive city. New business developments and church collaboratives that were established or that have grown, include the Mayor’s Annual Prayer Breakfast, the Buffalo Festival, and the newly launched Canopy of Prayer initiative. Unity is the glue that binds us together, that lets us lift each other up and will allow us to create greater prosperity for all.

Mayor Waites serves on many boards, including the EBR Parish Communications Board, CRPC (Capital Region Planning Commission), Technical Advisory & Transportation Policy Committee, Baker Chamber of Commerce, Lane Regional Medical Center Board of Commissioners, Louisiana Municipal Black Mayors Caucus, Louisiana Community Development Authority, Louisiana Municipal Association Executive Board and LAMATS Board of Directors, just to name a few. Mayor Waites is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Baker High School Booster Club.

Mayor Waites states the message he wants everyone to hear is that” during floods, hurricanes and pandemics, he has never lost sight of the things that matter the most to the community and has preserved to protect and serve the citizens of the City of Baker.” “ I am and will continue to strive to plan for and make necessary improvements that will ensure a healthy and prosperous future for everyone. I hope you are as excited as I am to continue to move Baker forward.”

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