Courtesy of The Town Talk Written by: Leigh Guidry
The button Sen. Mary Landrieu wore to the Rotary Club of Alexandria’s meeting on Tuesday said it all – “Fort Polk Strong.”
That was her message as she discussed the future of the military base near Leesville.
“I’m doing everything I can as a United States senator to protect and strengthen Fort Polk,” Landrieu said.
She said the community has helped make Fort Polk’s impact clear to the federal government by sending 4,000 letters to the Pentagon.
“We really lit up the switchboard, so to speak,” she said. “Of course, any reductions would be felt here.”
Landrieu said she doesn’t think there will be reductions, but added that there are no guarantees.
“I think we’re well positioned to fight off any cuts or reductions,” Landrieu said.
She said the community can continue to support Fort Polk by answering calls for more letter writing campaigns.
She said it is important that the development community get involved by attracting and building new restaurants, hotels and housing. That could lead to the widening of highways and other transportation improvements, she said.
“We really want the development community to look at what they can do,” Landrieu said.
She highlighted some of the progress made at the base during her tenure as senator, from securing funding for housing to the creation of Fort Polk Progress, a community support group for the base.
“This community really rallied around the base in the last three to four years,” Landrieu said.
Landrieu credits her “laser-like focus” on the base during her nearly 18 years as a senator to seeing dilapidated housing there years ago.
“I had really never been exposed to see that on a military base,” she said. “That thought stayed with me as I got to the Senate.”
She said the housing on base has undergone a phenomenal transformation since, thanks to funding she earmarked for it over the years and to public-private partnerships.
“We’ve managed to turn this situation all the way around,” she said.
Landrieu said the base was always a great training center, but didn’t offer the community needed for soldiers and their families.
She said that continues to change with funding for a new elementary school that will be built for children at Fort Polk.
“We can continue to be involved in what makes this a great joint training base for soldiers and community for families,” she said.
She also discussed the land purchase that would allow Fort Polk to expand and stop urban encroachment on the base. Landrieu said that is another step in keeping the base.
“We want there to be no question in the mind of the federal government that Fort Polk should stay,” she said.