After eight years, Monica proud of his legacy
Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2008
By KEVIN CHIRI
Editor and Publisher
LAPLACE – The days were winding down this week for St. John Parish President Nickie Monica.
With the inauguration on Monday for new President President-elect Bill Hubbard, it was the final days for Monica in an office he had worked out of the past eight years. And now it was time to wonder just what the people of the parish would remember about him.
“I think that even the people who didn’t vote for me believe I did a good job,” he said, finally finding time for an interview one evening.
Monica won’t be resting much, as he is gearing up for his next political venture, having been elected the District 57 state representative from this area.
But for this evening, it was time to take a final look back at the last eight years, wondering if the job he did will leave a positive effect on St. John.
In Monica’s mind, there shouldn’t be any doubt.
“I will admit there are some things I have a few regrets about, in terms of not getting them accom-
plished fast enough, or some things that haven’t been finished,” he said. “But I think there is so much more that I look back on and feel very good about. And I think most of the people in St. John know how much we accomplished during the past eight years.”
Monica said the number one accomplishment to him is the three-tiered connection St. John now has to the military, since he was a driving force to get the state to pick St. John as the site for the new Southeast Louisiana War Veteran’s Retirement Home, as well as being picked for the National Guard Readiness Center. Additionally, funding was approved to build a brand new Veteran’s Clinic. All three buildings are right next to each other in a prime position out Airline Highway in Reserve.
“Those are not just buildings,” he said. “I had an opportunity to show that I really cared for our veteran’s, and I think this shows we wanted to do something right here. Even though I have never had a family member in the military, I know what the veteran’s have done for me….they have allowed me to serve right here in this position, and for that I’m grateful.”
Monica views the new sewer system finally approved for St. John as a feather in his hat, although admitting he allowed politics to keep it from getting approved as early as it should. And the new water system which is ready for St. John, should be online perhaps this month.
“Those were two very important things, although the water system is still not the long term solution. We are currently assessing a site in St. John for a system on the river, and that would be the best thing for the parish,” he added.
Monica also pointed to the new Senior Center, the St. John Community Center, the Garyville Library, and recreation facilities in St. John as key accomplishments in his administration that he hopes people will remember.
For that matter, he seemed almost concerned that residents of the parish won’t see all the positive things he was a part of, and remember that he was a key force in making them happen.
“Even I drive down Airline and I look at the CVS, or the new Wal-Mart, and forget that eight years ago they weren’t there. We have made the parish business friendly, and that is a big reason we have added a lot more industry,” he said. “But for me, it’s like a flash in the pan for this eight years to have gone by, and I hope the people here don’t forget all we’ve done.”
Monica also said he was disappointed in not seeing a new I-10 interchange started yet in Reserve, although he plans to make that a priority as a state rep, and he also wanted to see the I-10 Service Road from Highway 51 to Belle Terre Boulevard completed.
“And the hurricane levee is still such a challenge for us. We have moved things forward, and finally have an agreement with the Corps to at least put the levee on the north side of I-10, but it could be three to four years to get it done,” he noted.
Monica said he remembers his first day in office when “we had only one computer in the building with Internet access. It was one of the first things I addressed to improve our technology. Can you imagine that? One computer with Internet just eight years ago? But that is the kind of stuff that has helped us come a long ways.”
As he prepared to leave, Monica said he had mixed feelings, since he will miss all the people he worked with, and especially the people in St. John.
Known as a public official who was more visible than perhaps any before him, Monica said his frequent traveling out-of-town, while criticized by some, was the reason many grants came to this area.
“I was in the right place at the right time because I wasn’t afraid to go to Washington and meet with people to bring money here. Before me, we never had a grant here before,” he said. “Now it’s bittersweet to leave. I love this job. I love the people of St. John and I always loved getting out to see people.
“People want to see, feel and hear the parish president, and I think I always did that to listen to them,” he said. “But right now I just feel thankful to have gotten this job. The people here gave me a dream job that was the opportunity of a lifetime. And overall, I’m proud of the job I did.”
Monica leaves a job paying close to $100,000 a year, and takes a job with the state House paying just $19,000, although it will be up to $36,000 with travel pay and other perks. But that leaves him needing to have another job, which he said he has still not gotten.
“I’ve got some options, but I didn’t want to start anything until I was finished here,” he said. “I may begin a consulting firm, and I have some other possibilities due to my past experience.”
As for his successor, Monica said the challenges are to finish the jobs he began.
“I admit there are some things I didn’t get finished,” he said. “I’m not perfect and the things I focused on left some other things without the attention they needed. For instance I didn’t get some of the internal things working as well as they should, but I think Bill can do a better job of that. But overall we’ve come a long ways in eight years and I think a lot of things are in place to keep moving forward.”