River acts as political divide in St. John

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2011

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – LaPlace resident Lucien Gauff III defeated Donnie Roybiskie of Edgard in the race for the St. John the Baptist Parish District A councilman-at-large seat in a special election held Saturday.

Gauff garnered 64 percent of the vote on an election day when an estimated 11.9 percent of qualified registered voters made it to the polls. He amassed 1,076 votes to Roybiskie’s 613. About 14,000 registered voters live in Division A.

Gauff, a chemical operator at Dupont Elastomers and member of the St. John Recreation Advisory Board, will hold the seat vacated by Richard “Dale” Wolfe when he resigned to become executive director of the parish Housing Authority. He will only be serving the remainder of Wolfe’s term, however, and will face another election in October, should he decide to run again.

Division A covers the west bank of St. John Parish as well as Garyville, Reserve and the western portion of LaPlace, and the diversity of the region was reflected at the polls.

While early voting results gave Gauff a 10 percent lead, results from individual precincts told a different story.

Those precincts lying on the west bank of the parish recorded overwhelming support for Roybiskie, a west bank resident, while for those precincts on the east bank of the parish, the opposite was true.

The real difference in the election came down to the fact the east bank has a much higher population than the west bank.

Gauff has been an avid supporter of Parish President Natalie Robottom and has said he wants to help the council and parish administration work together.

Gauff will take the seat currently occupied by appointee Raydel Morris later this month.

Roybiskie, who did not have a chance to campaign for the seat because his wife was in the hospital during the entire month leading up to the election, said he was thankful for those who did make it to the polls on Saturday but disappointed in the low turnout.

“If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain,” he said.

Roybiskie said it is likely his name will appear on the ballot in one of the council races this fall.

“With the support from the people I got on the west bank, I’ll definitely consider running again,” he said. “I’m going to get a feel for what the people want.”

Meanwhile, in St. James Parish, three millages that help fund the salaries of St. James Parish school district employees as well as maintenance of school facilities have been renewed by voters in the parish.

A measure to allow the school district to seek $20 million in 20-year bonds was also approved.

In the weeks leading up to the election, Superintendent Alonzo Luce made numerous pleas to the citizens of St. James to approve the millage renewals, saying failure to do so would almost certainly lead to layoffs in the school system. Voters must have heard his pleas, as the items all passed by margins of more than three to one.

Two of the millage renewals garnered 78 percent of the vote, and the third had 79 percent. The bond request passed with 73 percent of the vote.

Voter sentiment in St. James was much more even than in St. John as every precinct voted in favor of every measure, many with margins equal to the final tally.

“We are very happy with the support,” said Luce.

When the district seeks the bonds approved by the voters, $6.5 million could be in the form of QSCB bonds, which are interest-free but carry some extra stipulations from the federal government.

According to bond attorney Hugh Martin, the projects fro which the bonds will be used must be outlined and wages must be set at the federal rate, which can sometimes drive up construction costs.

Voter turnout for that election is estimated at just over 10 percent.