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Thompson 'go-to guy' for jobs

Robbie Evans

February 29, 2004

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

Age: 62
Hometown: Delhi
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 in education
Position: member, House of Representatives District 19
Philosophy: "I believe hard work and dedication and a good education pay off."

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 political career.

"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."


ŠThe News-Star

February 29, 2004