Learning about our leaders—straight from the source

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 18, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

What a big time was had by many at the St. John Community Center Monday night when the wrapup to the day’s St. John inauguration festivities concluded.

Newly-elected St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard was sworn into office earlier in the day, as was the new Parish Council, and after a busy day all around, the annual gala was held at the Community Center with an open party for everyone.

And what a party it was. Lots of great food from Cajun Grill and Ryan Cashio’s always outstanding catering work, equally lots of free beverages, a live band, and of course, a packed house of people just having a good time.

For those who may have wondered, the party was paid for by the parish transition budget, while Bill picked up the alcohol tab since he apparently wanted to make sure the night was complete.

Like usual, I was making my rounds with the camera, besides chatting with plenty of people, grabbing a few notes to pass along.

Maybe the highlight of my night was standing by the dessert table when up walked a woman and a man, who I quickly discovered were none other than the parents of the new parish president.

James L. and Retha Hubbard, who have passed the 51 year mark of marriage, were as delightful a couple as you could ever meet.

They have lived in LaPlace since 1968, and of course were still beaming with this excitement all around them of their son being elected parish president.

You have to remember that Bill Hubbard winning the parish presidency is probably a bigger thing than many people realize. I have been covering local news and sports for over 30 years, and I hate what I see so often, the people with great name recognition just easily winning the elections.

Hubbard took that on, beginning the campaign early in the year as a person only known in local business circles. Across the general population, he was virtually unknown. Yet he somehow overcame that and defeated a whole host of well-known name opponents to win the thing.

So naturally his mom was acting like….well, a mom.

“I’m just so proud of Bill and what he has done,” she said with a beautiful smile. “It’s like I don’t even know how to put it into words. We’re just so proud of him.”

She did admit that when her son came and told mom and dad that he was going to run for parish president, her general reaction was something along the lines of “are you crazy?”

She also said that she recognized from the beginning that he had a huge challenge since “I knew from the beginning his name wasn’t really known. But he persevered so hard in this race, and worked so hard. We just got behind him from the beginning and never quit.”

Talking to dad Hubbard, who worked his life for a packing and equipment company, you could tell where Bill got his laid-back demeanor from. But you could also tell there is a quiet confidence in the family that the new parish president obviously got from his parents.

How does mom think her son will do now that he is embarking into this big political circle?

“He will be the best parish president they have ever had here,” she said.

Got to meet the new St. John Sugar Queen, who I think a lot of people may not know is the current crown holder.

We had given plenty of coverage when Paige Braud won the local St. John Sugar Queen title. And then we also followed up when Paige went on to win the state Sugar Queen title.

But what a lot of people, me included, didn’t think about was when Paige took the state title, it meant she could no longer hold the local title as well.

That title then passed to the first runnerup, who is Kristen Hoover.

Kristen was as sweet as Paige was and obviously is making a great representative as our local Sugar Queen.

Even though it’s a little belated, congratulations Kristen.

After wandering around for a while, these aging legs of mine were ready for a break half-way through the night and I spyed a chair open next to a nice looking lady who turned out to be the aunt of newly-elected Councilwoman Darnel Usry.

Caroline Hahn and I talked a bit and then her husband sat down with us, and I discovered that his name, Remy, was given to him when his parents named him after the doctor here in LaPlace who delivered him.

This should be a test for you long-timers in St. John Parish.

Who is a local doctor for many years with the first name Remy?

The answer will be at the end of the column today with the rest of the story.

And what is up with this obviously contagious problem in the St. John public government office?

For you faithful readers of mine, you recall when I ribbed St. John Economic Development Director Julia Remondet months ago since she broke her arm pretty badly falling outside her house.

Yes, it was a little hard not to pick on her, but thankfully Julia is a good sport about any fun I try to have in this column. But that’s another subject.

And yes, I am digressing.

So back to the story.

I walked into the inauguration event Monday morning at the Edgard Courthouse, and what do I see but another of my good buddies, St. John Director of Purchasing Brenda Labat, standing there with a cast on her right arm. At least she had the good sense to decorate it with purple colors, and the word “LSU” right on the front.

Yup, you got it right, Brenda also broke her arm.

So I don’t know if there is something going around or what, but you might want to keep your distance from Julia or Brenda for a while, since there seems to be some kind of “broken arm disease” making the rounds.

Seriously, sorry to see the little problem Brenda—which of course happened to be the arm she writes with—and I hope the healing happens quickly.

OK, ready for the answer to my question from above?

Dr. Remy Gross was a longtime doctor in LaPlace, so “long time” ago that he delivered Remy Hahn at his home in LaPlace. Remy isn’t sure why his family was so happy about it all that they named him after the doctor, but I guess we can just assume Dr. Gross was some kind of great guy.

He was apparently a longtime family physician for St. John Parish, and in those days, was still making house calls.

Man, those really are the good old days, aren’t they? How hard would they laugh at you now if you called the doctor and said you needed him to come to your house?

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