Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Heather Carter: a lesson in participatory government

There are times when one person standing up can focus hundreds, even thousands of others to do the same.
Heather Burney Carter is the wife of a Bossier City police officer who was due to be laid off under the budget proposed by the mayor. Instead of sitting back, Heather took the initiative and proved that local government does respond to the people. The proposed budget called for the layoff of 26 police officers and 38 firemen. In the end, only 1 police officer and 8 firemen will be laid off. Regretfully, those people in the academies and a number of other city workers will be let go.
Heather started a Facebook group “Save our Bossier City Police and Firefighters” which ended up with almost 3,800 members. She attended every city council meeting, expressed her views to the concil and corresponded with council members.
Heather agreed to share her experience with the readers of My Bossier.

October 16th, 2009 was the kind of day in which something small happens but it changes your life forever.
When I was told that the mayor would be making a statement about possible lay offs for city employees I was concerned. When I realized my husband was one of the people that may be laid off I was devastated. My immediate reaction was to cry and then to pray.
The more I thought about the situation the madder I got. I knew someone had to do something but I quickly realized that most of the people who were involved could not do anything at all because Civil Service rules will not allow them to speak out.
I started sending emails and making phone calls trying to find out what could be done to help and what city officials needed to be contacted. I also started a Facebook group so the families involved would have an easy way to share information, ideas, and concerns.
I went to every city council meeting and tried to find as much information as possible on line so I could make sure everyone knew what was going on and how it affected their families.
My goal in the beginning was for the 2010 budget to have no layoffs. I quickly learned that was not feasible so I changed my goal to saving as many jobs as possible. I had several people tell me that one person could not make a difference and that I should just give up and start looking for my husband a job with a new department.
Several people said I was only adding to the problem. I was also accused of trying to save jobs in the police and fire departments at the cost of other city employees. I can honestly say that was never my intention, but I doubt anyone can say they would not fight for their job given the opportunity. I made it clear to anyone who would listen to me that I would not be quiet and I would not stop fighting until the final vote was cast.
Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that I do not like to speak in public. Making the decision to address the city council was hard, but I knew someone had to do it and none of the other family members were coming forward. In the end two other wives did come forward and speak out for their families. There are not words to express how much it meant to me to have someone who was going through the exact same situation I was in standing with me to take a stand. I told them both that when everything was over, no matter what the outcome, we would know that we did our best to help save our husband’s jobs.
I would not call the final decision a victory for my cause. The city council was unable to present a budget that everyone could agree on but they were able to get a majority vote. The city council was also unable to save all of the city employees from being laid off, but they were able to save some.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those being laid off. I personally feel that the council men did the best they could given the current situation.
All of the hard work and stress paid off in the end. When the final votes were cast and I saw the look in my husband’s eyes I knew I made the right decision.
By chance the votes were cast on our eighth wedding anniversary and I can not think of a better gift to either of us.
People will soon forget about everything that has happened over the last two months. They will stop attending the city council meetings, the news will not mention what the families of those being laid off are going through, and people will start to complain about the police again. To the families involved though we will never forget what it felt like to go through this process. How proud we were to watch our loved ones go to work and put their lives on the line everyday knowing they may be laid off in a few weeks.
I never wanted anyone involved in city government to know my name, much less to be on the news and in the papers, but my parents taught me to always stand up for what is right even if it is not was is popular and to always put family first. At the end of the day that is really all I have done.
I am so thankful now to have my life back. I no longer have to ask my boss for time off to attend council meetings. There will no longer be daily emails and phone calls trying to get people care about our situation and get involved. I can go back to just being Hannah’s mom and Officer Carter’s wife. That may not sound like much to some but to me it’s the best news I have gotten in weeks.
I would like to thank everyone who helped with our cause. Several people worked behind the scenes and did not get the credit they deserve.
It’s over, it’s really over.
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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Heather Carter and Carrie Moore are true heros. Every policeman and fireman have them to thank for speaking out on their behalf. These 2 women said what everyone was thinking but could not say when they spoke before the council and on news interviews. thank you both for saving Bossier City.

  3. Heather Carter and Carrie Moore did an awesome thing by standing up and speaking. Wasn't there another wife that spoke also? I could be wrong, but I thought that there were 3 wives that spoke on behalf of the officers. Thank you ladies.

  4. The third wife was Kristal Brewton.

  5. Thanks to Carrie Moore & Kristal Brewton. I do not know them personally and certainly was not ignoring their efforts.
    Kudos to these two ladies.

  6. this is a great story :)

  7. looks like the city is going to pick em off one by one!
    check the news- 2 officers one reserve and one officer that arrested Sentell fired today!

  8. I have often wondered what it must feel like to be a hero. Like many I will probably never know what it must feel like to save somebodys life, fight for a cause bigger than myself, or do anything that would be considered extraordinary.

    When the news channels began to run stories that police officers and firefighters were to be laid off in Bossier City I was beside myself. Would our city suffer? Would we still enjoy the same lifestyle in terms of safety that we have always had in Bossier City? As a lifelong resident of Bossier City these were questions that I and many others had. In an effort to find out the answers to these questions, and to alson find out where "our" money went I decided to attend the city council meetings. the first couple of meetings left me with more questions than answers. It wasnt until the third and fourth meeting that I witnessed the real meaning of being a hero. While at the third meeting I attended I saw two young women who addressed the city council. These 2 women Heather Carter, and Carrie Moore both showed the true meaning of fighting for a cause. I can remember feeling scared for these women as they spoke, but at the same time feeling honored to be in the presence of 2 people that couragous. During the fourth council meeting I attended Krystal Brewton spoke, and also gave a moving speech. These are the kind of "real People" that I believe we expect to be elected to public office. It's a shame that they probably will never get the chance because they are not in the "good o'l boy" network or they dont have the big money backing them. Because these 3 ladies did things like gave news interviews constantly, started a Facebook page, and voiced there opionins at the city council meetings most of these jobs were saved. I do understand they did this because there husbands were slated to be laid off, but how many of us can say that we would wage war on the entire city government to save out loved ones job. All I can say is what an awsome example of courage and bravery. You ladies not only saved alot of jobs, but saved the citizens of this city from a situation that could have been devastating if these police and fireman would have been laid off. So for that you 3 are heros.

  9. I also applaud their efforts and their success.

  10. the officer that arrested sentell was fired today. should be on the 10 news. can't believe they fired him right before Chritmas.

    So if an officer shoots someone it is investigated and he is cleared. But if he arrests a drunk DA, then he loses his job.

  11. Rumor is the mayor is not happy about this outcome. He wanted more police/fire layoffs for some unknown reason. Citizens of Bossier please do not forget that the whole city administration is at fault! City council members voted on this budget every year. The fact that they were overspending is as much their faults as it is the mayor. 3 years is a long way away. Do not let the citizens forget that we need a complete overhaul of the city administration. The mayor and city councilmen all need to go.

  12. Before you go blabbing your mouth about something you must not know I will tell you. The officer was fired for LYING on his Police report several times. It had nothing to do with the DA. Chief Halphen made that decision.

  13. You're a little sensitive there anon, no one was slamming your buddy the DA. Everyone is aware of who fired Officer Vernon.

  14. Anon 4:42,

    Jeez...awfully touchy. The only liar in that scenario was Sherb Sentell. That officer didn't lie, he simply couldn't prove what was said. The DA's behavior has been shameful enough during this ordeal to erase any good he might have done either in the past or to come. Both Marvin and Sentell simply wanted to throw their collective weight around to demonstrate the "big fish in a little pond" mentality that runs rampant in that office and in the Bossier City Administration. It's a shame any of these officers had to suffer one second so that Marvin and Sentell could prove what big bullies they are...Afterall, you must be really tough to push around a 120lb woman. Such behavior from those we elect to uphold and protect the law is embarassing to say the least.

  15. Didn't Chief Halphen even say that he had no doubt Sentell threatened their jobs? He will be reinstated after an appeal-it's just a technicality

  16. just think if this is how he treats his wife in public how does he treat her at home! and
    how many times do the police hear 'do you know who I am' or I'll just call my friend who is....!! all time favorite 'I'll have your job' no doubt in my mind the officers were threatened

  17. AWC @ 10:51pm on December 7, 2009
    No.. it was the officer's attorney who said that.

  18. To clarify more, the officer's attorney said that the chief made that statement.


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