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Q&A: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin: Highlights from Issue 31: Ode to the South

Highlights from Issue 31: Ode to the South



Monday, July 23, 2007


The following Q&A is from Issue 31: Ode to the South. This issue is available for purchase on this site

The Mayor of the City That Care Forgot
An interview with Ray Nagin

By Ronnie Reese

“That storm was really something,” says my Aunt Rose, a lifelong resident of New Orleans. She says it with a nonchalance that belies the extent of her personal battle with Hurricane Katrina, the largest and costliest natural disaster in American history. Rose and other New Orleanians will never forget those two days in late August 2005, but they have found that there is healing in moving forward. “I was very hurt over the whole thing,” she explains, “but this, too, shall pass.”

The person who bears the responsibility for helping it pass is embattled New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin. Nagin was no stranger to criticism in the months following Katrina. But despite the apologies made for his astonishing candor, he vows to remain steady in the face of his detractors. Nagin is of Creole descent, a child of New Orleans, and the revival of the place he has called home his entire life takes precedence over everything else. I sat down with the mayor on a mild spring morning in his City Hall office, where we discussed the progress since Katrina and how to preserve the rich culture and history of the city.

Stop Smiling: Growing up, did you have any aspirations other than politics?

Ray Nagin: I was always business-oriented and good with numbers. I had visions of doing a lot of things in business, which I did, so politics is a new arena for me.

SS: Now that you're mayor, how does it feel to be in that arena?

RN: Overall, it’s okay. I didn’t sign up for Katrina, and that took things to a whole new level. But overall, it’s good — because the things you do as mayor definitely impact the people in the community.

It’s a tough gig because regardless of what you do, it’s going to be overly sensationalized in some respects. There are very intense emotions right now. People are trying to get back to where they were, and they can’t get back there fast enough. But we’re going to keep pushing. Katrina elevated everything. I like to say that Katrina was probably the biggest reality TV show ever, and it continues to be today. It put me in a much bigger spotlight, interacting with the president, governors, the national media, you name it, which I had to adjust to, and I’m still adjusting to.


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