LOCAL LEADERSHIPBy NIKKI ROWELL,
Longtime Ridgeland Alderman Chuck Gautier
The City of Ridgeland sees continuous growth, both commercial and residential. Much of what gets done is spurred along by those who are elected to work for the city.
Chuck Gautier, a Pascagoula native, was first elected to serve on the Ridgeland Board of Aldermen in 2001 and has served ever since. However, his work for the city began long before that.
After graduation from Mississippi State University, Gautier moved to the Jackson area for a job in retail.
At MSU, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business management. He now works as a Realtor in Ridgeland and specializes in commercial sales and leasing.
While working in this business, Gautier has seen a shift in the way businesses work in the area.
“I think that business continues to be strong in the area,” he said. “I do see some shifts in the way businesses react to the public. For example, I see more interaction with online and experience-driven businesses.”
In his day-to-day work, Gautier has been given the opportunity to be the primary salesperson for the township in Ridgeland.
“I help answer phone calls for people who are interested in spaces there,” he said. “I work with clients locally to find commercial businesses and creating their space or looking at their space, either through fit-up or build-out or buying or selling land for commercial businesses.”
Gautier came to the area for work, but he stuck around once he got involved in the city.
“I got active in the Ridgeland Chamber of Commerce, and through that I saw a strong, positive business climate, and I saw a mayor who had a great personality but also believed in a strong business climate,” he said. “I started getting interested in everything from chamber meetings to getting asked to serve on some committees like planning and zoning.”
The first committee he served on was one called the Trails and Green Space.
“That was back in the late ’90s, when if you asked for it, you could get those things funded 100 percent by the Department of Interior,” he said. “You just had to engineer them and maintain them and that became the start of the trail system in Ridgeland.”
According to Gautier, now there are more than 20 miles of trail segments throughout the city.
“We don’t even consider widening a road without some kind of connectivity to (the trails),” he said.
Gautier has been involved with this project from the beginning, so he has enjoyed watching its progress over the years.
“It’s been tremendously exciting, because I used to use them a lot myself and do a lot of runs and walks and seeing lots of new segments come together,” he said. “We have one more segment that we’re hoping to complete by the end of this year over there in my ward. Just seeing those segments happen is great.”
While those projects have slowed down due to funding, Gautier says the city still finds creative ways to make those projects happen.
“That is the single most complimented offering that we have had as a city,” he said. “Everybody loves the trails. Even those who don’t use the trails like knowing they’re nearby. It just makes for a better community.”
He first decided to run for office because of his desire to serve those around him.
“I’ve always enjoyed a service to others and making a difference, and I feel like I’ve been led to continue to make a difference,” he said. “Sometimes those votes go down four to three on major watershed events. For example, things like the Butler Snow building and Costco fuel pump.”
He believes he has been able to make a positive difference, not only in his ward, but in the city as a whole.
Gautier said he was instrumental in getting a tree ordinance in the city.
“When I came in, if you had a conflict with a developer over zoning and they already owned the land, it would be nothing for them to just clear cut everything on there,” he said. “I pushed very hard to get a tree ordinance that didn’t negatively impact business, but still helped preserve trees. It’s led to us, from there, becoming a tree city and things like that. It helps storm water drainage immensely.”
He has served on a few committees and understood the roles of those advisory committees, which he says are critical to the city.
“I felt like I could do a decent job with the aldermen, and I really like working with the mayor,” he said.
He counts his work with the tree ordinance and trail system to be his biggest accomplishments while serving on the board.
If he isn’t working in commercial real estate or handling business in Ward 2, you can probably find him walking along one of the Ridgeland trails or sailing on the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
Gautier and his wife Virginia will have been married for 28 years in September. Together, they have two children, Charlie, 17, and Megan, 15, both students at Jackson Academy.