Walker says he will step down from chairmanship of NCIF in 2022

By Edwin Crayton/Opinion

The last quarterly meeting of the year for the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF) was supposed to happen in October. It was postponed but perhaps it was worth the wait. On Tuesday, November the 9th, at 7pm the final quarterly meeting of 2021 took place at First Baptist Church on Amulet.

At that meeting the discussion turned to Leo Walker’s term of office ending. He mentioned some concerns about his health. I asked him if he was stepping down because of his health or because he recognized that due to term limits in the bylaws he simply did not have authorization to hold on to the chair role any longer? He said “both”. Board members can only serve 6 years in a row total. Walker has been chairman since 2014.

Training new board members was a primary focus of the meeting. The organization went through a brief time of orientation for four new members and allowed them to ask questions.

NCIF now has over 2 million in funds. The foundation operates according to court approved by laws that require it to give all of that money to the citizens of Natchitoches. The distribution of these funds has been designated to take the form of grants in the areas of education, housing, recreation and economic development. Funds are also awarded as scholarships. All recipients of grants or scholarships must live in the city of Natchitoches. One of the issues discussed that night was that the foundation claims it is having trouble getting young high school students to participate. The student applicants are required to write an essay as part of the scholarship application process, but it seems few are willing to do so. One board member suggested asking teachers to help motivate students to write the essays. I asked the board if it made sense to push essays at all, since it’s not working? I suggested they drop the whole essay requirement altogether and just give scholarships based on need. Period. There are plenty of young people who may not be essay writers but are smart and just need help with getting the money to get started in college. The essay idea is very 20th Century anyway. Just give the kids the money if they can get admitted to a school. Kids who are barely making it academically or/and economically, but who have the ambition to do better should be the primary targets. At some point the board entered into a brief discussion on who is eligible to receive NCIF funds and Diane Blake Jones made it clear that anyone living in the city of Natchitoches is eligible and stressed that means anyone of any race.

Board Member Gwen Antee Harrison Davis had good, solid suggestions. She suggested they always pass out a written agenda at every meeting. She also suggested that the minutes also be on paper and given out at the meetings. The lack of documentation is startling when you consider the fact that NCIF is responsible for over 2 million dollars in funds designated for the people of Natchitoches. For instance, that night, even the treasurer’s report was given orally, with board members and members of the public struggling to write down financial numbers as they were read out loud. Primitive.

God willing, the next meeting should be the second Tuesday in January on January 11, 2022, usually at 7pm.

We will know on that night if Mr. Walker will keep his word and will not attempt to chair it.

“Let everything be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40