St. John parish president hopefuls address community, regional unity

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2011

(Continued from Saturday)

L’Observateur recently posed the same six questions to all three candidates in the St. John the Baptist parish president race. Their answers are printed below.

They say there is power in numbers. What will you do to build cohesion across the River Parishes?

Nickie Monica: In 1996, I was a founding member of the River Region Caucus, which consists of members from St. John, St. James, St. Charles and Ascension parishes. Members of the caucus meet once a quarter to discuss issues that affect the River Parishes. I will continue to support the River Region Caucus. The Port of South Louisiana plays a major role in the development of the River Parishes. We will continue to build on that relationship. We will also continue working with South Central Planning and the Regional Planning Commission. My opportunity to serve as state representative has allowed me to build new and strengthen existing relationships through the River Parishes and statewide. These relationships allow for dialogue about existing regional needs, potential solutions and opportunities to work together for the benefit of the parish and region.

Natalie Robottom: I’ve spent some 30 years building relationships and establishing credibility with colleagues across the region and state and have a great working relationship with leaders in surrounding parishes. I will continue to work with the leadership of St. James and St. Charles parishes and with the Port of South Louisiana, which represents all three River Parishes, in economic development efforts to present a unified front when it comes to recruiting new businesses to our region. The NUCOR steel facility in St. James Parish will not only benefit our upriver neighbor but many people from St. John will also profit from this industry. Similarly, when Marathon undertook its $3.8 billion expansion, St. John saw a surge in tax revenue while our neighbors also enjoyed increased employment opportunities. St. John has the only airport in the region, but businesses from other parishes use it frequently. Hurricane and disaster preparedness will continue to be a regional effort as well as improvements to our state highway and levee system.

Ronnie Smith: We should continue to work hand in hand, not just with the parishes in the River Region but with the parishes throughout the state. Don’t limit ourselves to just the River Parishes but work hand in hand with as many parishes as possible that want to achieve the same goals that we have.

In any elected position, one’s first priority must be the constituents. How will you build a relationship with the members of the community, and how will you build an administration that serves them?

NM: I will continue to have an open-door policy and remain accessible to members of the community. No one will ever have to fill out a form to see me or share their concerns. If you come to the parish president’s office and I am there, you can sit down and meet with me. This is how I have operated for 16 years in public office, and it has been one of the top reasons for the accomplishment we’ve achieved as a community and parish. In addition to having an open door policy for my office, I will appoint a liaison between my office and constituents. One responsibility of the liaison will be to attend neighborhood meetings, hear from community members and bring their concerns back to my administration to be addressed.

NR: As parish president, I set the standard of performance and conduct for all of my employees. I feel very strongly about my role as a public servant and will continue to provide the citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish with honest, effective government that is responsive to their needs. In building a team of other public servants, establishing and communicating clear expectations will drive the transition of my administration. Ongoing training and support will be critical to creating a culture of efficiency, transparency and ethical business practices. These priorities will be achieved by utilizing the guiding principles of fiscal discipline and sound management, improving our information technology systems, enhancing employee development and improving customer service. Over the last year, we’ve made government more accessible to the public and saved hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars through fair competition, negotiations and debt reduction. I’ve worked hard to restore the public’s trust in the parish president’s office and will continue to keep the interests and needs of our citizens foremost in my mind.

RS: First of all not only I but all my department heads will have an open door policy, for all constituents to come in and share their points of view with us. I will be there to listen not only to the complaints of the community but also the praises from them. I will be accessible to the people by email, phone and in person. I will continue to volunteer in the community as I do now, not just on certain boards but also with our kids because they are our future. I will set up town hall meetings were my constituents can sit face to face with our leaders/heads, and they can voice their opinions on issues in the parish.

What else would you like the voters to know?

NM: It is clear that construction of a hurricane protection levee is of critical importance to the people of St. John Parish. During Tropical Storm Lee, we saw again that a levee is needed to protect the parish from a tidal surge. The fact that we don’t currently have a levee is unacceptable. I will form a citizens’ action committee to advise the administration and council on ways to expedite the construction of the levee. This is no longer an issue for conversation but rather an issue that requires action. There is still work to be done on improving St. John’s water quality. We can no longer rely on the current source for water. The system that was installed with reverse osmosis was a temporary solution. The permanent solution is to build a water treatment plant on the Mississippi River. I will call on experts to evaluate our system, make recommendations and outline a plan for action. In order to address the issues of crime and education, I will form the St. John Alliance, consisting of top elected officials in the parish. The St. John Alliance will bring the parish president, sheriff, clerk of court, assessor, school superintendent, school board members and council members together to discuss the issues and concerns in the parish and determine ways for all parts of government to work together to make St. John the best place to live.

NR: I am honored to serve as parish president and enjoy the many challenges and wonderful people I get to meet in this position. St. John the Baptist Parish’s greatest asset always has been and will always be its wonderful people. I want to continue to serve as parish president because of my sincere desire to make our parish an even better place to live, work and raise a family. The parish deserves a president who is honest, has integrity and has a proven ability to get things done. My unique combination of experience, education and relationships at the local, state and federal levels puts me in the best position to help move our parish forward. I would sincerely appreciate your vote. Thank you.

RS: The short and brief of the matter is this: I want to serve the people as I have done in the past, and I want our parish to move forward and not sit idle in neutral. I make no promises except to always make all decisions to the best of my ability and make those decisions with the interest of the parish first. Secondly I will be accessible to all my constituents and always put them first.