St. James voters show early

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 10, 2002


LUTCHER – St. James Parish voters turned out early Tuesday and in good numbers, hoping to beat the rain, but Clerk of Court Edmond Kinler Jr. doubted that would last throughout the day.

A tornado watch was issued, concerning Kinler.

“I don’t think we’ll go over 50 percent,” he said, and expected to have better returns in Lutcher and Gramercy, where local races are drawing more interest.

At the St. James Parish Community Center, 2430 Louisiana Ave., Lutcher, commissioner in charge Belinda Rouillier said, “Surprisingly, it’s (voter turnout) been heavy.”

In more than 30 years of working at local polling places, she has witnessed first-hand the inner workings of elections.

“I started when I graduated from high school. I see it as part of my civic duty,” Rouillier said. “It’s long hours and not enough money, but I like the people.”

Commissioner Veda Clark added, “I think it’s real important, and my boss thinks it’s important enough to let me take the day.”

A Zapp’s Potato Chips employee, Clark is a Texas native who remembered handing out cards for candidates as a child.

“I’ve always felt it’s important to voice your opinion,” Clark said.

The site includes Precincts Five and Five-A of District Two. District Two Councilman Timothy Roussel, who voted early Tuesday, said, “We need to be concerned about who our leaders are,” explaining his reason for voting.

Virgia “Jug” LeBlanc, a retired veteran with 25 years in the U.S. Army, declared, “It’s my duty to vote.”

Likewise, John Duhe of Duhe Heating and Air Conditioning said his reasons for voting are to express his thought on taxation issues. “There’s also a few people running who I know personally.”

Audrey Veavers commented, “We’ve got to vote, because politicians are so crooked. You’ve still got to come vote, so it might straighten out one day.”

Across the street, at the St. James Parish Senior Center, 2431 Louisiana Ave., commissioner in charge Shirlie Troxclair, who has been in charge for almost 20 years and as a commissioner “more years than I can count,” was surprised at voting turnout.

With more than 1,000 voters in Precinct Six and 100 in Precinct Four of District Two, 150 voters had reported by 9 a.m. “We’ve had quite a turnout,” she said.

The hours are long and the work is hard, she said. Her day began at 5:30 a.m. and the polls opened at 6 a.m. Then, after the 14-hour polling period ended at 8 p.m., she had to meet with Clerk of Court Kinler to report back and turn in paperwork and keys.

However, she had an early exposure to politics, as her late father was a custodian of voting machines. “If they needed a worker, they’d call me,” Troxclair said.

Commissioner TeAnera Clayton said she thought her job was pretty easy. “It’s sitting down, eating. I love to meet people.”

Alfred Chauvin, operating the voting machines, has been doing it for 21 years. “A friend needed my help to run the machines. It was $50 back then and $100 now. I see it as a duty to my country.”

Troxclair said of Chauvin, “I wouldn’t trade him for a million bucks.”

Voter Mary St. Pierre said she was proud to vote. “It’s my duty, I suppose, to get the right person in.”

Milton Keller Jr. said as well, “I like politics. I’ll sit up late tonight, listening to returns.”

His late father, Milton Sr., had been a school board member and police jury member, so his political education came early. “I like politics, but he loved it.”

John Levet added, “I vote every time. I don’t ever miss an election. I don’t win ’em all, but I don’t lose ’em all, either. I think people ought to vote.”

At Gramercy Elementary School, commissioner in charge Judy Heltz has been working the polls for 15 years. “If you can do something to help your country, you’ve got to do it.”

She likes seeing young, first-time voters participating in the process. “They’re so excited their first time.”