Donaldsonville mayor, educator initiates conversation on community issues

Michael Tortorich
Donaldsonville Chief

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan sat down with longtime educator Daryl Comery for a conversation on issues affecting the community.

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan and Daryl Comery sit down for a conversation on community issues.

During the Making Progress program live-streamed June 24 on the city's Facebook page, Sullivan and Comery had a casual conversation at a table in City Hall.

Comery previously served as principal of Lowery Middle School. He was instrumental in starting the annual alumni round-up event, and also founded the Product of Donaldsonville campaign back in 2014 in response to violence in the community.

The idea sparked from a T-shirt design Comery produced with Lionel Asberry, who ran a graphics and photography business on Railroad Avenue. Comery's brother, Shannon, posted a photo of it on Facebook, and the idea took off as a way to promote positivity.

Comery said he and his brother grew up outside of Louisiana. He was born in Texas, while Shannon was born in Georgia. He said he found his identity when he moved home to Donaldsonville at age seven.

"The atmosphere for everybody was community," Sullivan said, explaining how families knew each other and looked out for young people.

"When we were coming up, there was no way you would pass by someone and not speak," Sullivan added.

Comery said the community was so close and loving, he did not realize he was in poverty until he grew up. When he went to Grambling State, he saw the difference.

"I have teachers all the time say they have kids who never crossed the Sunshine Bridge," Comery said.

Sullivan recalled how he would want seconds at dinner time growing up, and his father would give him the food in his plate.

"He sacrificed what he was going to eat for me," he said. "You appreciated those things. Not everything was perfect when we were coming up, but I'm thankful now for the things that were done."

They also discussed the possibility of transforming the former West Ascension School campus into an early-education facility, and the COVID-19 figures for Ascension Parish.

The mayor also touted the benefits of signing up for Everbridge, which alerts residents of announcements from government entities.

Weeks ago, the siren at CF Industries was malfunctioning. Donaldsonville Fire Department Chief Adam Gautreaux was able to send out an alert to inform residents through Everbridge.

Toward the end of the discussion, they addressed violence in the community.

"The answer is right here in the community. Just like you stepped up, I stepped up. There are people out there in the community," Comery said.

"If there wouldn't have been somebody to pull my coat tail to help me when I fell, I wouldn't have been able to do the things I'm doing now," Sullivan said.

Comery added he has been working with a diverse group from the east side of the parish. 

"They're white and black, and one thing I'm starting to realize we have in common is that we love our families and want what's best for our communities," Comery said.

"We will get through this as a community," he said at the conclusion.