City of Central Founder Russell Starns Looks Back on Battle for Incorporation

Starting a new city is one of the most difficult things anyone can undertake in the State of Louisiana, but a hardy band of Central residents led by Central businessman Russell Starns did just that in 2004-2005.

Starns, a 1975 graduate of Central High School where he was a star football player, became successful in the home health business. A strong supporter of his alma mater, Starns was frustrated by the way the federal courts and the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board had damaged Central High School and other schools in Central. The schools’ physical facilities were badly neglected, and school district lines were constantly changing.

The Central he and other residents knew and loved seemed to be slipping away. In 2004, Reps. Donald Ray Kennard and Bodi White introduced a constitutional amendment to create the new Central Community School District. The bill was reported unanimously by the House Education Committee and the Civil Law Committee but was short of the 2/3rds vote required for passage of a constitutional amendment on the House floor. Some legislators said they could only support the amendment if Central incorporated as a city.

That led Starns and other supporters of the proposed Central school system to begin to talk seriously about the advantages and disadvantages of incorporation.

When they looked hard at the issue, they realized that Central needed its own city almost as much as it needed its own school system.

Thus began the epic battle that led to the people of Central voting to incorporate on April 23, 2005. The city came into existence on July 11, 2005, when the first officials were sworn in.

The next year the legislature passed the constitutional amendment to create the Central Community School System, the voters agreed, and it became a reality on July 1, 2007. Russell Starns became the first president of the Central School Board. 

Over the next 14 years, Starns has lived to see his dreams become a reality. The Central school system is now ranked No. 2 in the state and has a beautiful school complex. The City of Central offers safe neighborhoods, great schools, and a wonderful family atmosphere. It is the third wealthiest city in Louisiana. It is the only privatized city in Louisiana, and it runs big surpluses and has $40 million in the bank.

Today, 14 years after incorporation, does Russell Starns have any regrets? “Not really!” he says with a smile.

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