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|Monroe council appoints realtor to succeed Katz|
The Monroe City Council selected local realtor Gretchen Ezernack as interim District 2 council member at a special-called council meeting Thursday.
Ezernack will fill the seat temporarily until a special election can be held. The District 2 seat became vacant last week when veteran councilman Ben Katz died unexpectedly.
The city council also agreed to call a special election for Oct. 2 to fill the District 2 seat for the remainder of the term. If needed, a run-off election would be held on Nov. 2.
More than a year remains in the term for members of the city council as well as for the office of mayor.
Ben Katz's wife, Rep. Kay Katz, nominated Ezernack to temporarily fill her husband's seat.
"I think she is a wonderful person who will be sitting here," Katz said following the special meeting. "She is a working woman, experienced, level-headed and I think she will bring a lot to the council. I'm also glad to have a woman sitting there … I'm very much in favor of that."
Ezernack has known the Katz family for many years and respects the family has done for the community.
"We worked together on several issues in our district, and we were good friends," Ezernack said. "I have mixed emotions because of the sad circumstances. I've thought of Ben a lot, and seeing that empty seat up there … he was a good guy."
Ezernack said she was surprised on being asked to succeed Ben Katz.
"It came out of the blue, but it's a real honor," she said. "It was very heartwarming to know she felt like I could do the job Ben had done, or at least try to do that. I have a lot of the same principles as he did."
Ezernack has worked in commercial real estate for more than 27 years. She currently is employed with Faulk & Foster. She also serves on the Louisiana Real Estate Commission.
"I just want to continue the work that Ben did, and I want to ensure the people of our district get the same types of service, and the same types of opportunities as the other districts," she said.
Councilman Jay Marx has known Ezernack since childhood. He said she will bring knowledge and expertise to the city council.
"We will miss Ben so much," Marx said. "Our heart will be with Kay."
"She could not have found a better person than Gretchen," Marx continued. "I've known her since I guess we were 2 or 3 years old. We are so fortunate to have her come serve with us. I told her yesterday, and I truly believe this, the only thing better would have been if she said, 'No,' and instead ran for this seat when it became open."
Council chairman Robert "Red" Stevens commended Ezernack for "stepping up to the plate to fill the shoes of a man who has anchored this council for seven years."
Katz, 71, passed away Jan. 13 at Glenwood Regional Medical Center.
Katz was first elected city councilman for District 2 in 2000. He was re-elected to that office twice (2004 and 2008). His peers on the city council voted him to serve as the city council vice-chairman for 2007- 2008 and 2008-2009.