Election season heating up in St. John

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 11, 2011

(Part 1 of 2)



LAPLACE – Qualifying for the Oct. 22 general elections is still more than three months away, but many of the local races in St. John the Baptist Parish are already beginning to take shape.

All nine council seats are up for grabs, in addition to races for parish president and sheriff. Nearly all of the races include familiar names and a few new faces.

In the race for the parish’s top job, incumbent Parish President Natalie Robottom has no official opposition, but many political circles within the parish say the race could include former Parish President Nickie Monica, who left office in 2008 to make a successful bid for state representative for District 57.

On Thursday Monica would not officially commit to the race but did say he was getting feedback from family and friends in the community and “exploring his options” for pursuing the office again.

“The day I walked out of that office in 2008, I missed it,” Monica said. “I truly believe that there is no other position that allows me to better serve the residents of St. John Parish.”

Monica said in November that he would not seek another term as state representative, opting instead to pursue a limestone, sand and gravel hauling business. He said the business is still in the works, but it would be put on hold should he decide to jump into the parish president race.

“I would certainly be devoting all of my time to the parish,” Monica said. “I love St. John. I love its people, and I’m always excited to serve for them.”

Monica would not say whether his interest in running has anything to do with displeasure over Robottom’s short term in office. Robottom served as Monica’s chief administrative officer throughout his entire term.

“I miss the active role in the community I once had,” Monica said. “I want to be hands-on.”

The parish president race could also include current St. John Council President Ronnie Smith, who is term limited out as the representative for District 6. Smith said Thursday he would make an official announcement sometime next week, but he indicated that he was going to run in October.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Smith said. “It is going to be an interesting election season.”

The race for St. John sheriff, which got off the ground very early in the year, has also garnered some excitement, with incumbent Wayne Jones squaring off against LaPlace business owner Aaron Lions and former Sheriff’s Office and parish employee Mike Tregre. Tregre recently resigned as the parish’s emergency preparedness director to run against his old boss.

When he announced his candidacy last month, Tregre said he never intended to run against his longtime boss but noted Jones had said previously his current term in office would be his last.

“I’m prepared to run now, and I intend to give it my all,” Tregre said.

Lost in the excitement over parish president and sheriff are the races for St. John council, where all nine seats are up for grabs.

The only official commitments come from District 1, with Edgard residents Carolyn Johnson and Art Smith announcing their candidacies, and District 4, where LaPlace resident Kernell Gaudia expressed his interest in running.

The council races are expected to see the reappearance of former Division A Councilman-at-Large Richard “Dale” Wolfe. Wolfe left his seat in October to take over as executive director for the St. John Parish Housing Authority but was fired from that post in May.

Wolfe told L’Observateur at the time of his termination he would get back into the council races. It is not clear whether he would run for his old at-large seat or in District 3, where he resides. The at-large seat is held by Lucien Gauff, who won a special election in April to finish out Wolfe’s unexpired term, while the District 3 seat is held by Charles Julien, who is not expected to run again.

In the District 2 race, incumbent Danny Millet currently has no known competition for his seat.

In Division B, Councilman-at-Large Steve Lee said he is out and has no future plans to run for office.

“I’m tired,” Lee said. “It is time for me to sit back and smell the roses. I have enjoyed my time, but it is up.”

Lee said he expects to see District 4 Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard compete for his seat. Hotard, who now resides in District 7 following reapportionment, said she is considering her options but would not commit to anything yet.

The only other council member expressing interest in running for re-election is District 7 Councilwoman Cheryl Millet, who is eligible for one more term.