Hazel Beard

Hazel Fain Beard (born 1930) is the first woman and the first Republican to have served as mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, since the era of Reconstruction. A fiscal conservative, Mrs. Beard grappled with many economic and social problems during her single term as mayor from 1990 to 1994.

Prior to her mayoralty service, Beard was a small business owner and a member of the Shreveport City Council from the southwest portion of the city. She was the first woman to have been chairperson of the city council.

Beard entered the mayoral race against three serious opponents, including the African-American dentist C. O. Simpkins, a Democrat, and two fellow council members, Republican Carolyn Calhoun Whitehurst and Democrat Bill Bush. Simpkins was a veteran of the civil rights movement. Bush, a businessman, led in the pre-election polls. Whitehurst, a real estate operator, later Carolyn C. Huckaby, is descended from a prominent De Soto Parish family: her father, Reimer Calhoun, was a Democratic member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1944-1952. Whitehurst, who represented a southeast Shreveport council district, had the support of the Shreveport Times.

Simpkins led in the primary, but Beard secured the second slot to proceed to the general election. She then prevailed, 38,604 votes (59 percent) to Simpkins' 26,341 (41 percent).

The Beard administration granted the first riverboat gambling license in Shreveport history. The designation went to Harrah's. Beard created a Growth Management Issues Committee, chaired by former Democratic Mayor James C. Gardner and Wendell Collins, a telephone company executive who thereafter became the city's chief administrative officer under Beard's successor as mayor, Robert W. "Bo" Williams.

Soon after taking office, Beard appointed Steve Prator, a 17-year member of the Shreveport Police Department as chief of police, a position that he held until 1999. Prator then successfully sought the office of Caddo Parish sheriff and became the first Republican since Reconstruction to hold that position.

In 1992, when Mayor Beard welcomed U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush to Shreveport during Bush's ill-fated reelection campaign, the president mistakenly referred to her as "Nasal" Beard. The mayor accepted the slip of tongue with humor.

As mayor, Beard appointed the Republican activist Harriet Belchic to the Shreveport Women's Commission and the Riverfront Redevelopment Advisory Committee. The panel completed Riverfront Park though it was poorly designed and unable to withstand seasonal overflows of the nearby Red River. Rising waters would flood the fountains in the park and interfere with the operation of the waterpumps.

As mayor, Beard had often expressed her opposition to any form of legalized riverboat gambling legislation which then Governor Edwin Washington Edwards had pushed for legislative approval. Shreveport-Bossier received five gaming licenses, and the area stood to benefit financially from such efforts. Beard hence changed her position and announced her support for one riverboat operation in Shreveport. But as legislative dealmaking resume, Beard recanted her support once a limited gambling operation. When Harrah's Casino opened to much fanfare in Shreveport, Edwards (who was a strong proponent of legalized gambling in Louisiana) could be overheard at the podium expressing his displeasure with Beard's anti-gaming comments and was reported to have told Beard during a chat at the dais that he (Edwards) "...had never had worked with nor known a Louisiana mayor who was as stupid as she...". Witnesses said Beard was shocked and speechless at his comments.

It was widely anticipated that former Mayor John Brennan Hussey, the man whom Beard he had succeeded, would challenge Beard for reelection in 1994, but Beard surprised political observers by not seeking reelection. Hussey ran as expected, but two city council members, Republican Bo Williams and Democrat Roy Cary, an African- American, went into the general election, which Williams won by a comfortable margin.

Former Mayor Gardner, in his memoirs entitled Jim Gardner and Shreveport, Vol. II, describes Beard accordingly:

". . . a large woman physically and had been a high school basketball player. . . . totally self-assured, gave her strength as mayor. Her public appearances and demeanor were of one who was acting under a voter mandate to change everything. She began her term in office by asking for the resignation of all board and commission members, something not done before or since. At her inauguration, she had stated that 'the era of darkness was gone, the era of light had begun.'. . . This made me uncomfortable with Mayor Beard . . . but we did develop a comfortable working relationship."

Hazel Beard is the widow of Charles Carroll Beard (November 24, 1920 - May 30, 2002). After her term as mayor ended, the Beards moved to Kingsland in Llano County, Texas, in the Texas Hill Country.

Beard received her college degree from Louisiana State University in Shreveport in 1985 at the age of fifty-five. In 2007, she received the LSUS "Distinguished Alumnus Award" when she delivered the commencement address in a ceremony at the CenturyTel Center in Bossier City. Beard has been active in such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Christian Women's Job Corps.

Beard's archival material is located at LSUS.

Preceded by
John Brennan Hussey (D)
Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana

Hazel Fain Beard (R)

Succeeded by
Robert Warren "Bo" Williams (R)

Famous quotes containing the words beard and/or hazel:

    Woman’s success in lifting men out of their way of life nearly resembling that of the beasts—who merely hunted and fished for food, who found shelter where they could in jungles, in trees, and caves—was a civilizing triumph.
    —Mary Ritter Beard (1876–1958)

    For spring had entered the capital
    Walking on gigantic feet.
    The smell of witch hazel indoors
    Changed to narcissus in the street.
    John Ashbery (b. 1927)