Diane Winston said she is enjoying her life these days, focusing on her two children and three grandchildren.
It’s a far-cry from her days in the local spotlight when she served as a state representative in the Louisiana Legislature for two terms.
I got to chat with Winston recently when I took a picture to promote the Three Rivers Art Festival, a downtown Covington event that adds more attention to the historic district where locals have done a fantastic job building a region that is growing month by month.
As the guy now working the west side of St. Tammany Parish, after doing news and sports in the Slidell area for over 30 years, I’ve especially taken note of the success Covington has had in building its downtown historic district. Quite honestly, I’m very impressed by the area that has been created, undoubtedly as a collaboration of public and private efforts.
Winston, it turns out, was a part of it starting back in the late 1980s when she was the St. Tammany West Chamber director, and worked closely with Slidell’s Chamber director, Irma Cry.
While Covington and Mandeville have both done a good job building their historic districts into something which is a “destination” for people out of this area, I have watched as Slidell has tried for the past 20 years to do the same with its Olde Towne area, but is still struggling. Fortunately for Slidell, there is a new organization that shows signs of having what it takes to finally make it happen.
But back to Covington, and also Mandeville—I asked Winston what she thought was a key to developing a downtown district into something special. First off, she said, it is obviously a slow process, but something the two west St. Tammany cities have worked on for years. She was definitely part of that as a state representative who covered this entire region—including eight municipalities.
At the state level where she worked in the Legislature, she provided supporting legislation that helped bring tax incentives and credits to historic districts, but she also pointed out the need for a downtown district to have a key point that makes it special. Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere is on the right track in that city as he is using the Mandeville Trailhead as a gathering center for city events in the historic district, and Covington Mayor Mike Cooper is doing the same for Covington—adding a factor to his city that is building on the progress already achieved.
Winston has traveled all over the country and said she particularly remembers seeing Indianapolis and the parks and attractions they have built in their historic district area. Today you can go to that city and find more to do in that region than you can imagine. No doubt we have smaller cities in St. Tammany than Indianapolis, but she makes a good point about having to build the district around something special—some kind of attraction. Covington has used the arts as another of its points to draw people, and that is wonderfully complimentary to restaurants since folks will come to experience a great meal, then walk around the historic area and enjoy the art.
Winston said there certainly will be “speed bumps” along the way, but she remembers her years here starting with the Chamber, and said the success she was a part of is positively the reason she gained the confidence to run for state rep.
One thing was especially clear in talking to Winston—she still has a passion and love for St. Tammany Parish and is doing many things in the non-profit and community realm to help us grow. It’s always nice to talk with people like her who want to have a hand in building our communities to be the best they can be. It’s inspiring to others, and just the thing to draw more into the developing success story.
Speaking of Mandeville Mayor Villere, I sat in on his bi-weekly meeting with the press that leads into City Council weeks and the conversation got directed towards the newly-designed City of Mandeville website.
I can tell Villere is a computer guy who loves the website. He has turned his monitor screen around more than once when I was in his office recently, showing me different things about the new website that he is clearly happy about.
One matter with the website that drew a little criticism is a tab that explains ethics, which can be found on the City Council page and also on the Human Resources page. The ethics tab also links you to state campaign finance reports.
Councilman Clay Madden let the mayor know that he didn’t love the ethics tab being on the City Council page, since he thought it might hint there are more “ethical” problems in that realm than anywhere else. But Villere, who has had his skermishes with some council members, made it clear he doesn’t see a need to change the positioning of the tab.
Villere also showed off website pages that are still being improved to show different maps that include zoning maps, historic district maps, council district maps and more. If you haven’t used the Google Terrain Map before then you would be fascinated to know that you can access a satellite view of the world, and zoom in so close that you can see your own house anywhere in the country. Villere did a little of that also as he met with the media and it’s clear the guy likes the computer and definitely likes the new website.
As Villere said, in today’s information age, he believes cities need to do more to be accessible to the public. The new Mandeville web site is a great step in that direction.
Kevin Chiri can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com