St. John assessor, clerk of court win election unopposed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Familiar faces will once again occupy the offices of assessor and clerk of court for St. John the Baptist Parish, as Whitney Joseph and Eliana DeFrancesch, respectively, return to their posts unopposed in the Oct. 20 elections.

Joseph, who is entering his second term as assessor, was genuinely surprised he did not get any challengers to his seat.

&#8220Politics can be a funny thing sometimes,” said Joseph. &#8220But this tells me that the people are satisfied with what I am doing in this office.”

Joseph said his office does a good job in informing the public as to what his office is doing for the parish. He said putting the tax rolls on the Internet and implementing a mapping system have been some of the positive things his office has done to help the public understand what the assessor is doing.

The same can be said for DeFrancesch, who said she was elated and stunned by the results of last week’s qualifying.

&#8220Hopefully, it means I am doing a good job with the people,” said the three time Clerk of Court.

DeFrancesch said one of her main goals this term is to bring the clerk of court’s office technologically up to date. She said her ultimate goal is a &#8220paperless office” where everything is digital.

&#8220It may not happen in the next four years, but it is a goal of mine,” said DeFrancesch.

One thing her office is working towards is a criminal software program that would give easy access to files for the sheriff and district attorney’s offices. She is also hoping to get regular computers in courtrooms in an effort to be more efficient in inputting trial information.

&#8220We already bring laptops in,” said DeFrancesch. &#8220But permanent computers would make things much smoother.”

DeFrancesch is also working to improve the clerk’s East Bank offices, which she said was inadequately functioning.

&#8220The parish is growing,” said DeFrancesch. &#8220We need something that is viable for the parish, and not just an afterthought.”

Joseph said he also has some ambitious plans that will continue to benefit his St. John constituents. In addition to a 5-mill reduction, Joseph also plans to place a cap on reassessed property.

&#8220Every four years, the assessor’s office reassesses property in the parish,” said Joseph. &#8220We need some kind of system to keep us from taxing people out of their homes.”

Joseph also wants to provide tax exemptions for small businesses that come into the parish and actually construct new facilities.

&#8220They should get the same benefits that a big business that moves into the area gets,” said Joseph.

Joseph said he wants to take advantage of what he calls &#8220a golden opportunity” in the expansion of Marathon Oil in Garyville.

&#8220This is going to bring $42 million in sales taxes into the parish,” said Joseph. &#8220I want to invest this money into a capital outlay fund and use it as needed.”

Joseph said his plan is controversial because it would essentially eliminate bonding attorneys, but said the parish should try to avoid borrowing money when it does not have to.

&#8220It will save the taxpayers lots of money that they would be paying in interest for these loans,” said Joseph.