Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 1, 2008
By KEVIN CHIRI
Editor and Publisher
LAPLACE – The e-mail to L’Observateur was pretty simple, trying to let us know that they thought new St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard was doing a good job.
“Right after Hubbard took office, I e-mailed him about a pair of shoes that had been hanging from an electric line in Garyville, right in front of St. Hubert’s old rectory building. Those shoes had been hanging there for many years,” the e-mail said.
“The next week I drove down the street and the shoes were gone,” it concluded.
Hubbard leaned back in his chair at the St. John administrative offices and gently laughed.
“No, I don’t remember getting that e-mail,” he said honestly. “But if we get a call about something, we try to get right out and get it done. I’m guessing someone in our office got the call, and passed the message along, and then it got taken care of.”
St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe has a simpler way to describe Hubbard in office.
“He’s a ‘get it done’ kind of guy,” the president’s right-hand-man said. “When we are in staff meetings, he knows how to cut through all the stuff, and get to a solution.”
Hubbard, 45, was elected the new St. John parish president last fall, and took office in January of 2008, beginning a new career he never thought he would have after operating his own construction business much of his life.
Now just over 100 days into his term, Hubbard seems satisfied he has kept his promise to voters. Running on a slogan of “a businessman with a plan,” Hubbard said that there was much to be accomplished to improve St. John, and he could get it done with a businessman’s approach.
During the first 100 days in office, it has at times been hard to keep up with the steady stream of projects the administration has tackled, and succeeded in getting done. But through it all, Hubbard maintains it is just what he promised to do.
“I’m satisfied with what we’ve done so far,” he said after a pause to reflect. “Of course you could always do a little more. But I have had some great help in getting things done, and I’m good at delegating things, so that has helped.”
Hubbard said he purposely wanted to make a point to the parish residents by holding a Parish Council meeting immediately after he was sworn in. During that meeting, he and the council agreed that it was time to put the debate of nearly 10 years behind them about where, how or when to build a new animal shelter.
“Within one hour of being sworn in, we voted to build a new animal shelter,” Hubbard. “I did that specifically to make a point that things can be done around here if you approach them the right way. They talked about that for 10 years, but within one hour the council and I were able to agree to get it done.”
Since then, Hubbard’s administration has been a whirlwind of activity in tackling one project after another.
Besides the staple of potholes in the roads, ditches to be cleaned, and grass to cut, there have been many other important projects that have been addressed. Some have been finished, some are being worked on, and others are being decided upon. (See list with this story detailing projects the current administration has addressed.)
“I think that the thing I am most proud of is the fact that the Parish Council and I are working so well together,” Hubbard said. “I can honestly say that all the council members get along well with the administration, and that’s why we are getting a lot done.”
“I told the council that I am not King Hubbard, and they are not King Such-and-Such. They were used to getting nothing done around here, but now that we work together, we are getting a lot done. It takes that cooperation to make this happen,” he added.
So has Hubbard run the parish government like a business, something he was criticized for suggesting during the campaign?
“I told you so,” Hubbard said with a smirk in response to the question.
Then getting serious, he explained how it has happened.
“Government may not be exactly like a business, but there really are a lot of similarities. I’m like the CEO of the company. I run things, the council legislates,” he said. “I touch base with them about things, especially when they are in their districts, and that kind of communication has helped things go very well.”
Hubbard said he has found the job more to his liking than he thought, considering he never imagined he would run for public office, much less parish president.
“I still find myself hanging out with friends and suddenly joke with them by saying, ‘hey, did you know I’m the parish president?’ But I really feel that way sometimes. It’s still hard to believe I’m doing this,” he added.
But Hubbard said the position has been rewarding to him, and a job that he really likes.
“I like the fact that everyday I come to work there is something new to tackle and try to accomplish,” he said. “I really like the job, especially since it gives me an opportunity to accomplish a lot of things, and a chance to really help a lot of people. That makes me feel good.”