After 35 years of elected service, Wolfe leaves council for new job

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 16, 2010



LAPLACE – For the first time in 35 years, Richard “Dale” Wolfe will not be a member of the legislative body governing St. John the Baptist Parish.

Wolfe, 70, formally resigned from the Parish Council at the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting to take a $75,000-per-year position as executive director of the St. John housing authority.

Known as a tough-talking stern champion for the poor who rarely backs down, Wolfe flashed a bit of humor before making his announcement Tuesday night.

“I’ve been toiling trying to make this decision, and I’ve decided not to take the job so that I can stay on the council,” Wolfe deadpanned, pausing for a split second. “Just kidding.”

The sly quip prompted raucous laughter throughout the full council chamber. As the laughter subsided, Wolfe returned to his serious tone.

“I have to thank the council, our attorneys and the public for this opportunity,” he said. “It is very rewarding for me that the board of commissioners saw fit to give me this job, and I will make them proud. I want to take housing to a new level, and we are going to do it together.”

Wolfe began his career in public office in 1975 as a member of the parish’s police jury prior to adoption of the parish’s home rule charter, which created the Parish Council. He has been a regular fixture in parish politics, including an unsuccessful bid for parish president during an April special election. He fell short to Natalie Robottom in a runoff.

In August, Wolfe threw his name into contention for housing authority director. The commission appointed him as director on Sept. 23, but he said he had not come to an agreement on a contract until Tuesday afternoon. The contract with the housing authority is for three years, but the board has the authority to extend it. The housing authority manages roughly 300 apartments in four housing developments.

Because the Parish Council appoints housing authority members, Wolfe was forced to resign from the council to avoid violation of Louisiana laws for dual officeholding.

With Wolfe gone, the council now has 30 days to name a replacement to take over his Division A at-large seat, which represents the west bank, Mt. Airy, Garyville, Reserve and western LaPlace. The replacement will serve until a special election can be held in April. Wolfe said Tuesday he is considering a few names, but he has yet to recommend anyone.

“I need a little time to make a decision,” Wolfe said. “I want to confer with other council members to make sure it is a person everyone is pleased with.”

According to the Parish Charter, if the council fails to make a decision on a replacement, Robottom herself must make the appointment.

Following his announcement, the council took turns bestowing kind words on the departing councilman.

“You are an icon,” said Councilman Charles Julien. “You have done so much in Division A. This is a historic moment for this council and this parish.”

Division B Councilman-at-Large Steve Lee, who served on the council with Wolfe for more than 20 years, said he often clashed with Wolfe but said the two always managed to come together for the good of the parish.

“He sometimes talked a bit too long, but he makes his points and drives them home real well,” Lee said of Wolfe. “You may question some of his actions, but you couldn’t question his heart.”