Michael Dunlap/The Monroe News Star
State Rep. Francis Thompson has a salesman's mentality
when dealing with economic development.
Thompson's professional career began in education and continued in sales. But
three decades ago, a sense of helping others began to take hold.
And whether it's selling kids on the values of an education or selling the
governor on the need for funding a project to create new jobs, education and
economic development always have been high on Thompson's life goals.
"I never intended on being a politician, but I've always been a good
salesman," Thompson said. "One thing I always try to keep foremost
in my mind is that I have to make sure my goals and objectives are met, and
they are set by my constituency. That's my job."
A Delhi native, Thompson's professional career began as a teacher in the
Monroe City School System before moving into the private sector as a vice
president and business manager at Delhi
7: Francis Thompson
Family: wife, Marilyn; three children, eight grandchildren
Education: Delhi High School; University of Louisiana at Monroe -
bachelor's degree in science education; Louisiana Tech University -
master's degree in biology; University of Louisiana at Monroe - doctorate
Position: member, House of Representatives District 19
Philosophy: "I believe hard work and dedication and a good education
Manufacturing Corp., which produced boats.
In 1968, he was elected to the Richland Parish School Board, where he also
served as the board's president. In 1974, he was elected to the state
Legislature as representative for District 19.
During his tenure as a state representative, Thompson has earned a reputation
of a "go-to" representative. His desire to create jobs and focus on
education and economic development is something he learned early in his
"I saw the importance way back then of how important jobs are to
people," Thompson said. "If you can help people get a meaningful
job they will see the importance of accomplishment. Then, those people will
be able to instill in their children a desire to get an education so they can
get a good job."
Thompson said he has always been a goal-oriented individual, a trait that
began early in his life when his parents impressed upon him the need for a
good education. As an elected official, Thompson said he spends a lot of his
time tending to a lot of people's business.
"I'm rabid about that sort of stuff," Thompson said. "I have
confidence in myself and being able to deal with people. I don't look just to
my district or my hometown; I look at it statewide. ... I feel a person
should offer himself to serve wherever he's needed."
Buddy Spillers, who has worked with Thompson through the Macon Ridge Economic
Development District in the Delta area and Ouachita Economic Development
Corp., said the Delhi legislator always has been someone to count on in Baton
Rouge when a big economic development deal depended on a response from state
officials. In 1993, a deal with Fruit of the Loom to bring more than 400 jobs
to Vidalia depended on a $500,000 in funding from the state.
The problem was, according to Spillers, the state Legislature was dealing
with a legislative session in which fiscal matters weren't being addressed.
"We needed a half million dollars to finance the deal," Spillers
said. "(Former Gov. Edwin) Edwards looked at Francis and told him to
handle it. It was taken care of, and we landed the deal."
Spillers said Thompson's willingness to work with areas of northeastern
Louisiana outside his House district has been part of why Thompson has
succeeded in becoming the area's senior state representative.
"It doesn't matter where it's at, if you call Francis, he's going to
respond and do everything in his power to help improve the economy,"
Spillers said. "He's a go-to guy."
Monroe Chamber of Commerce Chairman Terry Denmon said the most impressive
aspect of Thompson is his willingness to work for other areas of the state
outside his legislative district. Denmon said Thompson's seniority in the
Legislature is also an advantage.
"If you ever ask him to do something and he agrees, he always does
it," Denmon said. "He represents the whole state and especially the
whole region. The Monroe region calls upon him regularly, and he doesn't
hesitate to help, and he knows his way around the Legislature better than any
other legislator I know."