A pair of inaugurations bring the promise of change

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 15, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

The changing of the guard occurred for St. John and St. Charles parishes on Sunday and Monday.

A new parish president was sworn in for St. John, where Bill Hubbard is now leading the way, while in St. Charles it was V.J. St. Pierre who took over that position.

I went to the inauguration ceremonies for both parishes earlier this week and, as usual, found the festivities interesting for a lot of reasons some people might not think about.

But then I’m a writer.

And on top of that, they actually pay me to tell you what I think. Imagine that.

I was at St. Charles Parish on Sunday for the outdoor event, which proved to be very nice, albeit a bit cool, with a strong wind. But the sunny sky and the large crowd gave it the feel of something new and fresh happening in the parish.

St. Pierre, a former Vietnam veteran and 32-year businessman, doesn’t strike you as the classic politician by a long ways. For that matter, Hubbard would fall into the same category since he has spent his life in business, and never run for public office before.

But both men come across to me as very sincere in their intent on improving government, and the way each parish operates over the next four years.

Want an idea of how you can tell we are at a Southern Louisiana government installation event?

After the outside ceremony, I went into the council chambers at St. Charles for photos of the new council, and suddenly somebody comes in with a pot of apparently freshly cooked something.

“V.J., here it is,” they yelled.

Besides the usual finger sandwiches and a few other things, St. Pierre apparently has a good friend in Stanley Zeringue of Zeringue Plumbing who made deer meatballs for the crowd. I had never had them, but let me tell you, they were some of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

I haven’t eaten too much fresh game in my time, just a little deer or alligator. But these meatballs were unbelieveable with this red sauce, obviously with a touch of wine I could taste. Yummee!

But back to St. Pierre, you could sense the enthusiasm on his part, and that of a new Parish Council, which is an entirely new group of nine elected members taking over.

Talk about an opportunity for a fresh start, I don’t think it gets any fresher than a new parish president with nine new council members.

As for Mr. Hubbard, he probably couldn’t have looked any more uncomfortable having to be the big name at this crowd that jam packed itself into Room C of the Edgard Courthouse.

If you know Bill, it’s just not his cup of tea to be the center of attention.

Now as for outgoing Parish President Nickie Monica, I think we know how he feels being the center of a crowd. And that is one of the big reasons Nickie was being inaugurated on Monday to his new state representative position in the Louisiana Legislature.

But I digress.

Bill and I chatted a couple of times before the ceremonies began, and you could tell he was going to be happy when it was all over, and he could just get down to business running St. John government.

He admitted how much he keeps having people make it clear to him that the pressure is on to produce. He ran a strong campaign to win the election, coming from being a relative unknown, to beating a well-known local public official.

And in his campaign, he promised a more efficient government that will get things done quicker than in the past.

As I’ve said in the past, I don’t think you can say our government hasn’t been doing anything. There is a long list of accomplishments from the past four years that St. John can be proud of. But some things took far too long than they should have, and some things still haven’t been finished.

Those are the areas Bill will address and try to improve on. And Monday’s first Parish Council meeting, which saw a unanimous vote to finally approve building the new animal shelter, couldn’t have been a better sign of how Hubbard apparently will operate. If that kind of pace continues, then I think the people of St. John will be pretty happy.

But for now, Bill had a full day of festivities to round out his big day, concluded by the gala at the St. John Community Center on Monday night. (More on that Saturday)

When Bill got finished giving his short speech to the crowd after being elected, there was an immediate standing ovation. I could feel a sense of real excitement in the crowd.

People are anxious to see what this unusual parish president can do. A guy who didn’t come from the political circles, who isn’t trying to get his face in every photo op he can, and a man who simply wants a chance to show he can help St. John move forward.

Good luck to you Mr. Hubbard, and the rest of our new St. John Parish Council. We are all pulling for you.

While Bill was in the spotlight much of the day, running around behind the scenes was Buddy Boe, the guy I guess we could call his campaign manager, or his public relations man, or his media director, or….well, I’m not sure since Buddy seems to do a lot of things. And speaking of the spotlight—just for the record—Buddy doesn’t mind it at all.

Buddy was one of many people who worked pretty hard to help get Bill elected, and he now has a position with the staff to work for four years in charge of media.

When I showed up at the courthouse on Monday, Buddy had copies of the entire day ready for the press, including a copy of the speech Bill would give (since it was written by Buddy), and even down to an agenda at the church service.

I’ve said it before, but I wanted to say it again. Buddy Boe is a guy who is going to do something big one day. The (I want to still call him a kid) young man keeps impressing me for how savvy he is about politics, government, and pretty much everything he puts his hand to. I mentioned to someone at the event Monday that it’s going to be nice working with him the next four years since he is one of those people you can count on to do what he says, and always get you what ever information you need.

So one more time Buddy. Keep up the good work.

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at kchiri@bellsouth.net