St. Pierre, entirely new council, usher in new St. Charles era
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 15, 2008
By KEVIN CHIRI
Editor and Publisher
HAHNVILLE – The cool breeze blowing through the festivities outside the St. Charles Parish Courthouse on Sunday seemed perfect to support the fresh new change in government which is coming for the next four years.
Inauguration ceremonies for the new government in St. Charles Parish were held on Sunday in front of the courthouse, where visitors, family and friends bundled up for the sunny, yet refreshingly cool day.
It seemed perfect since newly elected Parish President V.J. St. Pierre was sworn in, along with a nine-member Parish Council which is completely new.
As rare as it is, the voters in St. Charles Parish will have nine new council members now making decisions for the parish, along with their new parish president heading the proceedings, due to many new people elected over incumbents, as well as others leaving for other reasons.
“It’s pretty unusual,” said new District 7 Councilman Dennis Nuss. “But I think it’s a good thing. We’re all interested in doing our best for the parish, and with all new people,
I think it will be really good for the parish.”
Taking center stage over the day’s activities was St. Pierre, the longtime local businessman and Vietnam veteran, who decided to run for the office, even knowing the challenges facing him.
“The reality of this is all setting in now,” he said right after the ceremonies were completed. “Even though a lot of people wondered why I would run for something like this, I just wanted to do something to give back to the parish which has given me so much through my business, and support for my years serving in the military.”
St. Pierre was sworn in by Judge Edward Dufrene Jr. from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, while his mother Maggie St. Pierre held the Bible.
St. Pierre said that he believes he can minimize the problems he might encounter by always trying to do the right thing for the parish.
“Headaches you have will be what you create,” he said. “But if you do the right thing, I think you can minimize them. I really think we’re going to be OK in what we’re trying to accomplish.”
He cited hurricane protection as his top priority, while also noting in his acceptance speech the need for better customer service through parish offices, fiscal responsibility, improvement of infrastructure, a land use plan and recreation, which needs improvement for current facilities as well as more parks added.
“If we don’t have good hurricane protection, businesses won’t want to locate here, and the ones we have might end up leaving. We have got to have good storm protection and that’s the most important thing we have to do here,” he said before the crowd of approximately 500. “I am committed to leaving a legacy of integrity and efficiency for St. Charles Parish.”
St. Pierre said he will change one way he conducts the office in that he will only have four department heads reporting to him, as opposed to former President Albert Laque, who had meetings with many more.
“I trust my department heads to get the job done as I see fit,” he said. “I want to have more time to go out and visit with business people and let them know we are here and interested in their opinion.”
Along with Nuss in District 7, the new council will consist of Carolyn Schexnaydre -Division A At-Large; Terry Authement, Division B At-Large; Billy Raymond Sr., District 1; Shelley Tastet, Division 2; Wendy Benedetto, District 3; Paul Hogan, Division 4; Lawrence Cochran Jr., District 5; and Marcus Lambert, District 6.
Guest speaker John Kennedy, the Louisiana state treasurer, talked about the big emphasis by incoming Governor Bobby Jindal on ethics, and hoped the parishes around the state would join in with trying to show the nation an improvement in that area.
But he also acknowledged the difficulty of working at the local government level, which he said was the toughest of any elected positions.
“Of the three levels of government, there is no doubt the local is the most important and the most difficult,” he said “Nobody calls the state treasurer at 9 p.m. on Saturday night for a problem, but I know you guys will get those calls. Local government is the closest to the people, and that’s why it is the most important.”
A mass was held earlier in the morning at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church, then the festivities continued with a catered buffet for everyone in attendance on the grounds of the courthouse, right after the inauguration ceremonies were concluded.