By Jim Buice
The Clemmons Courier
Michael Gautreaux, the newest member of the Clemmons Village Council, never has considered himself to be a politician.
“We all have politics in our lives, whether it be with family or friends or work, but I never saw myself as a person running for office,” he said. “I’ve always been a student of history and government, and I’ve always thought that I considered myself strong in service opportunities.”
So when Gautreaux, a member of the Clemmons Planning Board for the last four years, was asked to consider filling the spot left vacant by the sudden passing of councilman Chris Jones in early April, he was happy to accept.
Before becoming part of the Planning Board in 2008, Gautreaux had expressed interest in being part of the committee that was developing the Comprehensive Plan for Clemmons.
“They wanted a balance of business people and citizens,” he said. “They had enough citizens and not enough Clemmons business people.”
Gautreaux, who is director of the transplant lab at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, then found his place on the Planning Board and served as co-chairman for the last two years. His name was on the ballot to serve another term before receiving a “promotion” to the Village Council.
Nick Nelson, mayor pro tem, said that he was impressed with Gautreaux’s ability to communicate with an open-minded approach to reach solutions.
As for priorities in his new role, Gautreaux said he would like to see the Comprehensive Plan be implemented, or at least as much of it as possible, as time moves forward.
“I’d like to see the Comprehensive Plan that was crafted by a lot of input from the citizens, and a lot of hard work from the committee that developed it and the Planning Board that looked through it,” he said. “I felt like it was a pretty fair representation from the community on how we want Clemmons to develop. I’d like to try to get as much of that done as possible, given the current economic reality. I don’t think that the goals are unattainable. I think we just have to be smarter about how we go about attaining them.”
Gautreaux, 47, emphasized that it is a not a short-term plan.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about the Comprehensive Plan is that it was all commissioned to be done as a result of the last election and the next couple of years,” he said. “It is a 30-year plan. A lot of the implementation of that plan was dependent upon new businesses coming in, perhaps annexation of certain areas or new subdivision development and the property taxes that will go along with that. It was not supposed to be an overall thing that we’re going to fix Lewisville-Clemmons Road. It’s a whole Village-wide plan to try and be consistent in how we develop in the future, and oh by the way if possible, do a little bit of a focus on the transportation areas of the village.
“The traffic pattern along Lewisville-Clemmons Road south of I-40 is just horrible. But another thing we need to realize is that the Village does not own that road. DOT does.”
Gautreaux said he thought the $6 million bond referendum last November for improvements to Lewisville-Clemmons Road connectivity was doomed because there wasn’t enough time to educate the voters and receive sufficient input.
“I didn’t make any public comments about it, other than I thought it wasn’t going to pass,” he said. “The bond issue is almost the exact opposite of the way that the Comprehensive Plan was developed. There was almost, in my mind, no constituent input. And I think, the price tag, or I guess the sticker shock, is what caused it to go down. Overall, as far as the goals of what the bond was going to accomplish, I supported all of that.”
One of the current topics being debated by the Village Council is the proposed greenway in Clemmons that is part of the Yadkin River Greenway Plan.
“The idea of greenways are very important through the Comprehensive Plan and the process, and the community has stated that they want them,” Gautreaux said. “There is now a growing sense that there are other things we can spend our money on. I think one of the ways to bridge that is taking advantage of opportunities presented to us through the grant process and the plan of the state DOT (offering a sidewalk from the Yadkin River to Harper Road that will require no local funding) and piggybacking on that, and instead of maybe having different islands of greenways, have interconnection.
“So maybe we don’t get the whole greenway along the Yadkin that is currently envisioned. If we can get a way for people to get on their bikes from the area of the Y to Tanglewood safely and then build a greenway or at least a connection of the greenway from the bridge over 158 into Tanglewood, then maybe there isn’t the panorama along the Yadkin that we currently envision as a way to get to it. And then in the years as there is more of an understanding or more clamoring for expanding the greenway along the Yadkin, then it can be done.”
Gautreaux said that Clemmons remains a top destination for families looking for quality living, and that as the economy improves, more businesses will be looking to locate here as well.
“We are very well positioned to be a place for young professionals to come in when they are looking for a place in the area,” he said. “I was lured to Clemmons when I came here to work for Wake Forest Baptist.”
A native of New Orleans, Gautreaux graduated from LSU with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology. He went on to a receive a PhD in microbiology and immunology from the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport.
After starting his professional career in Charleston, S.C., he and his family moved to Clemmons in 2004 when he accepted the position at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
He and his wife Jo have been married for 21 years and have two children — Catherine, 16, and Maddy, 14. They are members of Holy Family Catholic Church in Clemmons.
Gautreaux said that in addition to his job in medicine, he is a big reader, enjoys working out at the Y, has become an avid runner and enjoys spending time with his family.
He said that he usually goes by “Mike” but answers to his full name of “Michael” on the Village Council since Mike Rogers is already part of the board.
“I go by Mike, but I think Mary (Cameron) has deemed I will be Michael,” Gautreaux said.