Founded in 1870 by the Texas and Pacific Railroad, Westwego (www.cityofwestwego.com) was established as a railroad yard and dock linking the Mississippi River to Bayou Segnette, Bayou Lafourche and the Gulf of Mexico. According to the City of Westwego's website, folklore states that railroad passengers heard the conductor yell, "West we go," as the train left the station.
Early residents — many of them fishermen, shrimpers and trappers — were drawn to the area due to its proximity to the New Orleans markets, the Gulf and Barataria Basin. Westwego residents prize this heritage, which is evidenced by the Westwego Historical Museum, Sala Avenue (a historical district) and the Westwego Farmers and Fisheries Market.
"The farmers market is a place to bring ... the community together," says market coordinator Keith Bouvier. "We host many events during the year — some are free, some with small fees, but families can come out and enjoy themselves. We also make the market available to the residents and community for rentals and special events for schools, churches, et cetera. We open it up to vendors [and] crafters to show their goods and to residents who want a space for a garage sale or flea market."
Bouvier says Westwego maintains a balance of locally owned businesses and big-box stores.
"There are several local restaurants that serve good food at reasonable prices, supermarkets that cater to the local residents that can't make the big trips to the giant supermarkets such as Wal-Mart [and] several hardware and marine supply stores that cater to the local residents and fishermen of our community," he says.
Westwego also was rated the 10th safest city in Louisiana by Motovo Real Estate in 2012. Short police response times and crime prevention programs put in place by Westwego Police Chief Dwayne Munch Sr. contribute to the ranking. "Not many cities have officers walk the beat in the neighborhoods and check your property making sure your doors and windows to your homes are secure," Bouvier says.
A retired fire chief for the city, Bouvier is proud of the fire department. "We have a great group of men and women who volunteer their time alongside the paid personnel to protect life and property," he says. "The citizens of Westwego just passed an additional 6-mill property tax to the current 4 mills for future fire equipment and operation." Bouvier adds that the Public Works Department is quick to respond to emergencies, "usually within less than an hour's time," he says.
These are reasons why generations of families have made Westwego their home. "Westwego is a community where many have made a living and raised their children, where their children have stayed, running mom-and-pop businesses, raising their own children," Bouvier says. "As they say, 'Born and raised here in God's country and would want to go nowhere else.'"