Meet DeRidder Mayor Misty Clanton - BestOfSwla (2024)

admin Thursday, May 2, 2024Comments Off on Meet DeRidder Mayor Misty Clanton

By Diana Vallette

Misty Clanton is DeRidder’s first female mayor, but that’s never mattered very much to her. “Your office is beautiful, definitely the result of a woman’s touch,” I tell her, sitting for our interview. Clanton smiles at my comment but says nothing.

It’s been a rough few years for her. She’s had to navigate two hurricanes, a freeze, fires, a divorce and loss. Someone very close to her passed away unexpectedly just one month ago and it’s been difficult. “How many days off have you taken?” I ask her. “None,” she says. “I knew going into this job that it was 24/7, 365. It’s constant, whether I’m in my office or not. I don’t know that the public necessarily knows that, but it is.”

Clanton is serving her second term as DeRidder’s mayor. When she first started working as project coordinator under Mayor Ron Roberts, her son, now 14, was only two months old. “My children come first,” she says. “There is no balance. No one can juggle it all. If there’s a field trip, I’m on it. If they need a chaperone, I’m going. I tell my staff all the time ‘This office will be here tomorrow, but your kids will grow up.”

Clanton was born and raised in DeRidder, where her dad still owns a small business. She graduated from DeRidder High School in 2000, moved back to DeRidder after college, and ran for mayor when Roberts’ term was over.

“I’ve always been real and raw. I’m not a very good politician,” she says, laughing. “I never pictured myself doing this, but when Ron was leaving, I had to choose between continuing the good work we had done together or letting it all end.”

Did she enjoy the politicking of it all? Not exactly. She says she would think twice about anyone who says they enjoyed that part of it. “You get thick skin. I wasn’t thick-skinned before becoming mayor. I have cried. It took me some time to learn for all the loud, unkind voices there are a ton more supportive, kind people who just happen to be quieter.”

After her divorce, she learned why being the first female mayor was history-making.“Contrary to what some were saying, there was nothing salacious that led to it. It was a personal decision, and going through that publicly has changed me. I’m far from a feminist, but through this experience I’ve learned there are a group of people who expect women to be perfect — to look and act a certain way.”

At a woman’s conference recently, she quoted America Ferrera’s character’s famous Barbie monologue. It begins, “You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.”

Clanton is incredibly proud of the work she and her staff have been able to accomplish in the aftermath of the events of 2020. During that time, she says, she learned all that really matters are people. “Everything else was stripped away, and all that mattered was making sure everyone was OK. This administration……we are crazy. We’ve been able to bring our city through two hurricanes, an ice storm and a pandemic. You give us a disaster, we will respond. We will sleep in our offices. We will do what needs to be done.”

She and most of her staff have been working together since 2009. Their focus has been on making DeRidder a great place to live and making their neighbors at Fort Johnson army base comfortable. “A lot of the families stationed there are away from their extended families. We want them to enjoy their time here and think of us when it’s time to retire.”

On weekends when she’s not lugging cleats and bat bags — her son plays travel baseball — you can find Clanton strolling the aisles at local antique shops. “I love going to Big Stick Long Bow, Louisiana Cajun Culture and downtown’s Treasure City Market. It’s where I have the best conversations with our residents.”

DeRidder is a small town with a population of just under 11,000. Not only do the residents know everyone they see at Walmart, according to Clanton, they recognize each other’s vehicles on the road. The small town is getting a Starbucks and over the past few years has had growing Mardi Gras festivities.

Clanton has an open-door policy with her constituents. “You know, in 2024 I don’t think it’s ever been easier to speak to your elected officials. I welcome people to come by and talk to me, or they can write a note on the back of their water bill.”

She’s learned a lot during her time as mayor and says maintaining her privacy has been difficult. “I didn’t even know I needed to [keep some things private] until my life looked different than people thought it should. I heard from many people that my decisions in my personal life were going to cost me votes. I’m not living my life for votes. I will not pretend to be someone I’m not. I don’t care to be a professional politician. I’m a real person and so are all of my staff members. They’re the best. We give our whole heart to what we’re trying to accomplish here, and we go to sleep each night knowing that we’re doing the right thing.”

Has Clanton thought about what she’ll do in the 2026 election? She says she’ll run again. She’s looking forward to a term without loss, fires, hurricanes or freezes. “I’ve never been able to just…. be mayor. We’ve been adjusting to the disasters that have come our way. I’m looking forward to serving the great city of DeRidder without any of that. We have an incredibly safe community with great things to do. It’s a great place to raise a family, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Meet DeRidder Mayor Misty Clanton - BestOfSwla (2024)


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