Waveland Voters Decide Their Recovery Path

As one of the candidates pointed out, Waveland's forefathers spent more than a century creating a waterfront city with an old town charm. The next mayor and city council have only a handful of months to determine what path the city should take to rise above the storm.

What should they do first?

A good place to find out was Waveland Avenue.  That's where Jeane Smith still has her mailbox. While she was moving plants back outside, she said, "This is my idea of a dream come true."

Smith lives on Waveland with her dog Buddy. And when they stand on their porch, they can see the Mississippi Sound. But that view only appeared after Hurricane Katrina blew away her neighbors. The porch is connected to a FEMA trailer. And the FEMA trailer is surrounded by reminders of just how much Waveland lost last August. "Devastation," is how Smith described her view. "People are still wandering around. We're not all there yet, you know what I mean. It's like they lost something, which they did."

So many people in Waveland lost everything -- their homes, their family valuables, and their sense of security.

Smith's neighbor Jim Casey was one of the lucky ones. He didn't lose anything. Then again, Casey didn't arrive in Waveland until after Katrina's eye littered the city with hurricane debris. "I came for what I thought would be a month or two," he thought, "and here it is, I'm still here."

The two neighbors have two differing opinions about the leaders elected Tuesday should do to cure the headaches Katrina created. "What can they do?" wondered Smith. "I mean, I thought everybody was bringing it back in their own way."

Casey had a list of problems he wanted the city to fix. "I would like to see the infrastructure get back to where it needs to be, such as the sewage and the water," he said.

At the city's lone voting precinct, other Waveland residents had their own theories about the city's recovery needs. Lionel Gerstner implored the next elected leaders to "fix the drainage." Darlene Broughton pushed for economic improvements. "We need businesses" to come into the community she thought. "Then we can start building, and rebuild our lives."

Back on Waveland Avenue, Jeane Smith's home rebuilding project is about to begin. The contractors arrive later this week. After 25 years, her love for Waveland won't let her leave the city. "Everybody that I know of that stayed loves it, too," she smiled.

Nobody is sure how many people still live in Waveland. What city hall does say is that before the hurricane, more than 5,300 residents were registered voters. About 20% of those people voted in November's city primary.