Ken Ritter, Mayor of Youngsville, sat down with Jan Swift of Discover Lafayette to share his thoughts on the progress his city has experienced and the quality of life Youngsville offers its residents.
As a new resident of Youngsville in 2006, Ken quickly got involved in his homeowner’s association, was elected to the City Council in 2011, and ran a successful campaign for mayor in 2014 when the sitting Mayor, Wilson Viator, announced he would not seek re-election.
Ken serves as an ideal and enthusiastic representative of the young demographic of this growing city where the average resident is in their mid-30’s, enjoying a higher than average median household income, and parenting young children who are highly engaged in sports.
In 2011, Youngsville residents passed a 1 cent sales tax to fund the Youngsville Sports Complex and the city is becoming a destination for competitive sports clubs and programs such as the co-ed Youth Flag Football League “Football ‘N’ America” founded by Drew Brees that will commence this fall. Even with the demographics skewing young, the Sports Complex is offering a Masters League for 50-plus and 60 plus-year-old ballplayers. In May 2019, the complex celebrated the groundbreaking of a Beach Volleyball Complex which will feature a total of 5 sand volleyball courts, including a championship court.
As a City Council member from 2011 to 2014, Ken was instrumental in the creation of the city’s comprehensive land-use ordinance, the city’s increased infrastructure requirements for privately developed subdivisions, and the city’s residential development code. During the interview, he stressed that he wants to focus on the quality of growth, rather than quantity. With a plethora of starter homes for young people, he is working to attract the building of larger homes for prosperous families who want to stay in Youngsville as their families outgrow their space.
Ken is cognizant that growing a community takes a strong partnership between landowners, government officials and private developers who are willing to invest in the projects needed to enhance market offerings. While working to raise the standards of development, he wants to assure investors that Youngsville will remain easy to deal with and will maintain its “small-town touch” as people deal with the permitting process.
When Ken became mayor in 2015, approximately 300 to 500 residential building permits were being let each year, and all records were kept on paper and not digitized. Now, the city’s records are all computerized to set up Youngsville for success as the city has grown from less than 3000 residents twenty years ago to approximately 15,000 residents today in 2019.
Drainage issues are at the forefront of Ken Ritter’s mind as well as that of the members of Youngville’s City Council, especially after the August 2016 flood. Four initiatives are in place: (1) Clear existing drainage of the coulee system: the city has rented excavation equipment and is working 365 days per year to clear out clogged coulees; (2)Raising of Development Standards by requiring developers to comply with the flood damage prevention ordinance and enhanced development design standards; (3) Youngsville sought and obtained funding of $8 million dollars for retention pond needs to enhance master plan drainage designs. (Youngsville obtained 30% of $25 million dollars made available to an eight parish region by having a tentative plan in place to work with cooperative landowners and create two regional retention ponds that can lower base flood elevations while creating landscape and recreational opportunities to make the land usable); and (4)Youngsville looked at neighborhoods prone to flood to determine what could be done to prevent future flood events. The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore storage retention ponds.
As a city with its own Council and Mayor, Youngsville has control over its destiny, yet is still a partner in Lafayette Parish funding issues. With the recent Lafayette City-Parish Charter change setting up separate City and Parish Councils, Ken expressed hopes to see Lafayette Parish be able to prioritize infrastructure needs; yet he acknowledges that the Parish fund is “dead broke” and unable to fund improvements in the current anti-tax climate. Ken stressed that open dialogue between elected officials and the public is imperative for the parish to move forward, but until that happens, there will be a lack of confidence in our elected officials.
For more information on Youngsville, please visit https://www.youngsville.us. Thanks to Mayor Ken Ritter for a wonderful interview and for the leadership he provides his community!