Challenges may not be over for Faucheux, even after political stint
Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008
By KEVIN CHIRI
Editor and Publisher
LAPLACE – Bobby Faucheux likes a challenge, plain and simple.
The lifelong River Parishes resident can look back on his 57 years so far, and see how many times he has taken on what appeared to be even some seemingly insurmountable challenges.
So it would seem easy to believe that Faucheux would finally be ready to relax after recently wrapping up his 12-year stint in the Louisiana House of Representatives, achieving a lifelong dream to serve in politics.
But perhaps not so.
Faucheux stepped down from his House of Representatives District 57 seat earlier this year, as he decided not to run again for that position, ending a 12-year stay in the state Legislature that saw him rack up an impressive list of accomplishments.
It was the culmination of a lifelong interest to serve in politics, going back to his family history, which saw his grandfather also serve in the state House.
But just when it seemed Faucheux was ready to sit back in his law practice, and get more involved in some personal business dealings, the popular area politician is hinting that he may not be finished yet.
“My wife says ‘never,’ when I talk about running for something else, but I say ‘maybe.’ I just have to see what opens up,” he explained. “It might be a local judge’s race. Who knows?”
For Faucheux, any new challenge he takes on will just fit the mold of his life so far.
From an early age, the well-liked lawmaker with the gentle smile has looked at some obstacles, and then taken them on with a vengeance—frequently knowing it was a challenge that most would have backed away from.
Take his first attempt at politics.
Joseph Accardo had been the 12-year incumbent to the Louisiana House of Representatives from the River Region area, and the youthful Faucheux, barely out of law school, decided to challenge him in 1979.
“It was an uphill battle, that’s for sure,” Faucheux said, leaning back in his chair with a big smile on his face. “I knew what I was facing.”
Sure enough, the popular Accardo beat Faucheux with 64 percent of the vote, “soundly beating me,” he said.
Even as a high school graduate, Faucheux was not a recruited athlete after playing all the prep sports. But it didn’t stop him from walking on at the Ole Miss football practice field, where he made the team.
“I knew pretty fast that football in college wasn’t for me,” he said with another laugh. “But I wanted to try and make it. Once I got there for a couple of weeks though, it just wasn’t right for a small guy like myself.”
Nonetheless, Faucheux never let those tall walls standing in front of him deter his attempts to keep trying.
He bounced back from the ’79 loss to Accardo when he decided to have another shot at politics, leading to his 1995 decision to try for the same state representative seat again. This time he won out of a five-man field, beating highly-popular former St. John Parish Sheriff Lloyd Johnson in a runoff.
Then perhaps the biggest accomplishment of all came in 1991, when at the age of 40, Faucheux suffered a nervous breakdown, an apparent culmination of a divorce he had gone through during the previous decade, coupled with an intense business life. And yet even with that, he has now come out on the other side with a bright outlook on his future.
Autos or Attorney?
Faucheux grew up in Lutcher, attending Lutcher High School before going on to LSU and Loyola Law School for his degree, being raised by a father who was well-known for owning Faucheux Chevrolet in St. James Parish for nearly 40 years.
His father, Robert Faucheux Sr., died in 1986 at the age of 67 from a heart attack, while his mother, Beulah, is still living today at the age of 83.
Faucheux knew he could remain in the automobile business, since his dad had him working there as a teen-ager, but he realized on his own that the business world wasn’t for him.
“I went to conferences with my dad sometimes, and I realized that I would be a lot happier being a lawyer and running my own business, than trying to keep 30 to 40 employees happy at a dealership,” he stated. “That’s really how I decided to become a lawyer.”
But through those early years at home, Faucheux had his interest in politics primed, all through his father’s love of the game.
“My dad had this real love for politics,” he said. “He ran for state Senate twice, even though he lost, and my grandfather had served. I remember helping on the campaign of Jimmie Davis for governor, so the political interest was stirred up in me from a young age.”
Faucheux went on to finish college, coming out of school from Loyola in ’75 and immediately jumping into the race against Accardo, a longtime incumbent.
Even though he lost, Faucheux just decided to put the political aspirations on the back burner, as he went into some private business dealings for a number of years. Those times included the purchase of the WSLA radio station in Slidell, as well as opening Spudley’s Spectacular Tuber’s here in LaPlace.
Stress is Too Much
But the toll of so much professionally, matched with personal pressures in his first marriage, led to a divorce in 1981, and eventually his nervous breakdown in 1991. It was something that affects him to this day, but now is something he has turned into a positive as he has tried to help others with similar problems.
“Being a lawyer, you become part of everyone’s family,” he remarked. “And after what I went through, it almost seemed for a time like everyone I had as a client also had a mental problem.”
But Faucheux has since approached it almost as a personal ministry, trying to direct those with similar problems, to get the help he finally received.
“A lot of people have similar problems to what I went through, but they either don’t recognize it for what it is, or they don’t want to accept help,” he said. “When I see that in others I try to tell them to go get help, and accept the advice from medical professionals.”
Faucheux said he was diagnosed with depression and bi-polar disorder, but remains under the care of a physician to this day, and still goes for regular counseling. Additionally, he attends chapel every morning at the Catholic Church to draw spiritual strength from that relationship.
“It took a few years to get that problem behind me,” he recalled. “And I still go to managed care. But so many people have these kinds of problems, but won’t admit it. They don’t want to get on the medication since they might gain weight, or some other excuse. But you’ve got to do it to save your life.”
Faucheux said he saw his weight go up almost 60 pounds from medication he took, but has since lost almost 40 pounds as he has gotten on a good eating plan with regular exercise.
Victory at the Polls
As things improved for Faucheux both personally and professionally, he saw the opportunity he had been waiting for when Accardo decided to step down before the 1995 election.
“When I saw the seat was coming open, and then I saw the people lining up, who said they would run, I knew I could do a better job than any of them, so I knew it was time to run again,” he stated.
Faucheux ended up in a five-person race that included Johnson, Richard Holmes, Kim LaBorde and Ann Tatje.
In the primary he finished second to Johnson, trailing by 100 votes. But he turned it around and won by 376 votes in the runoff to finally reach the first political position of his career.
Like many first time lawmakers, Faucheux said he went to Baton Rouge with starry eyes, thinking he would change the world.
“I was going to bring every business to Louisiana,” he said. “But like many other freshman legislators, I was in for a culture shock. I realized I couldn’t do it by myself, and I had to build relationships with others, since it took that kind of help to get things done.”
Since serving for the past 12 years, Faucheux said he is most proud of helping bring the War Veteran’s Home to St. John Parish, secure the National Guard Readiness Center here, build a new Veteran’s Clinic, get approval for the new access road to Highway 3127, build the River Parishes Tourism Commission, and fund key organizations like the Port of South Louisiana, and the Louisiana Airport Authority.
“I leave with some disappointment to not getting the Garyville Museum back the way I would have liked, and of course I wanted to get a service road completed from Highway 51 to Belle Terre, as well as see more progress for the new interstate interchange in Reserve,” Faucheux said candidly. “But I look at what I accomplished and feel pretty good about what I’ve done.”
Faucheux, now married 13 years in his second time around, has a busy home with eight children in his “mixed family,” and is enjoying the life out of politics—at least for now.
“Never say never,” he said, when asked about running for any new office. “As I said, the wife said ‘never,’ but I still say ‘maybe.’ It just has to be the right position.”
This fall there is expected to be a host of local judges seat’s opening up, assuming current Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Tom Daley runs for St. John District Attorney, as is expected. Faucheux just smiled when asked about one of those judgeships.
“It could be something like that,” he added. “It just has to be the right thing.”