It has not been a quiet week in this central Louisiana city of 60,000 people: On the parish coroner's say-so, Mayor John K. (Tilly) Snyder was committed to a Veterans Administration hospital Monday for psychiatric evaluation.
Already life is more orderly here. But as Tilly Snyder's admirers will tell you, orderly isn't everything.
"Oh yeah, he's flamboyant. He likes to think he's Earl Long," said his attorney, Edward P. Cicardo, referring to Huey Long's younger brother. Committed to a state mental institution in 1959 during his third term as governor, Earl Long extricated himself by firing its director and the state director of hospitals.
"I think he thinks he's Earl Long reincarnated," said Police Chief Glenn Beard, whom Snyder has twice tried to fire and twice welcomed back, although Beard never left office.
Even Cicardo -- who is defending the mayor on charges of breaking-and-entering and drunken-driving -- says that in the weeks leading up to dawn Monday, Snyder had been acting "a little out of the ordinary."
For starters, according to Cicardo and Beard, Snyder commandeered the police chief's patrol car and took to cruising the streets, pulling people over, introducing himself, asking about their bumper stickers and occasionally trying to make an arrest.
Snyder then entered into negotiations with the motor pool to have a siren installed on the car. In the meantime, he chattered on its radio, calling for backups and running license-plate checks.
Last week, Beard said, Snyder "captured" firefighter Paul Smith for 12 hours and turned him into a chauffeur. On Friday, Snyder precipitously moved his quarters into Beard's office, then called City Hall to inform officials there of his whereabouts.
This is a mayor who has been sued four times by the Alexandria City Council for refusing to do routine things such as sign contracts. This is a mayor who, according to local officials and newspaper reports, denounces political opponents and journalists as "pinheads," "peons" and "dope pushers." This is a mayor who created a stir in 1983 when he publicly called a black City Council member "a chimpanzee" and urged him to bring his own bananas to future meetings.
Residents here say the populist Snyder has won two four-year terms with his appeal to poor people and minorities. But supporters and detractors say he is probably unelectable now, and Snyder has indicated that he will not run when his term expires in December.
At City Hall, employes contemplated the latest developments. "Today, we're just consolidating the revolution," a council staffer said.
"It is a coup, of sorts," a council member said.
"The council is just poised to take whatever steps necessary to continue city government," said council President Marion J. Cheney, who is poised to become acting mayor at a meeting called for noon Thursday.
James Schless, chief of staff of the VA Hospital in Shreveport, said Snyder has agreed to remain, adding, "His outlook is good, and we don't see him being here more than a couple of weeks."
Snyder was stopped Jan. 18 in the commandeered police car and charged by state troopers with drunken-driving and carrying a concealed weapon. After the arrest, Beard said, the mayor spent much of his time -- day and night -- in that car, calling matters to the attention of the 113-officer department.
"It puts our officers in a bit of a precarious situation," Beard said."As mayor, he is the head of the police force, and when he gives orders, you want to dance. But even our officers knew what he was doing wasn't right."
City Hall sources said Beard signed the affidavit that led the local parish coroner to issue a petition for Snyder's commitment. The mayor, according to the sheriff's office, did not dispute the sheriff's authority when deputies came to take him away, and Cicardo said Snyder "had a calm ride to Shreveport."
Snyder, 63, receives $47,200 a year as mayor. Like Earl Long, he wears cowboy boots and suspenders wherever he goes. His constituents view him now with a mixture of humor, pathos and mortification. "It's ridiculous," a clothing-store clerk said. "He's making fools of us."
But Charlie D'Amico, proprietor of a restaurant across from City Hall and a longtime friend, said he was saddened that the mayor was not allowed to preserve his dignity by committing himself to the hospital. "He didn't deserve what they did to him," D'Amico said.
Snyder's commitment came four days after the arrest of a City Council member on drug charges and two days after the arrest of a former mayor for making harrassing telephone calls. As a local minister put it today, "In the last couple of days, there have been some problems in City Hall."