Parish president hopefuls in St. Charles Parish forum

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

By David Vitrano


BOUTTE – If the latest political forum in St. Charles Parish is any indication, voters there need to decide if they are happy with the current direction of the parish or if they feel a change is in order. At least that was the message sent by the two candidates for parish president there as they participated in the forum sponsored by the River Region Chamber of Commerce and the St. Charles Business Association at Hahnville High School Tuesday.

The race pits current Parish President V.J. St. Pierre against District 1 Councilman Billy Raymond. Raymond had originally qualified for the District 1 race but threw his hat in the parish president ring at the last minute.

In his introductory remarks, St. Pierre explained his motives for running for the office four years ago.

“We wanted to show the parish we wanted a change,” he said.

St. Pierre went on to tout his accomplishments while in office.

“As of this day, we are in the process of completing over $117 million in projects,” he said.

Among these are a new DMV and a new Public Works Department headquarters, housed in the former East Bank Regional Public Library building. He also spoke of transparency awards and an “unheard of” amount of grant awards as well as continuing efforts in flood protection and attracting new business.

“I’m not going to convince you in three minutes,” he said. “I think we made major improvements.”

Raymond recognized the achievements of St. Pierre but also saw some areas where improvement could be made.

“I see an opportunity for us to move the parish forward,” said Raymond.

He cited a need to bring more businesses to the parish, saying St. Charles ranks highly among area parishes regarding home ownership and household income but last in that same group in retail sales. He said remedying this situation would “in turn reduce the unemployment rate in our parish.”

When asked about his top priorities should he be elected to a second term, St. Pierre placed the west bank hurricane protection atop his list.

He said he would also like to see two boat launches constructed on the west bank and ensure parish government is staffed with skilled, well-qualified individuals.

Raymond agreed with St. Pierre on this point, saying the west bank levee project also topped his list of priorities. He added improvements to drainage and infrastructure to the list but added the parish must make sure attempts at progress are not “creating a negative impact on any of our residents.”

The second question posed to the candidates dealt with the means they would use to bring more jobs and businesses to St. Charles Parish.

Raymond said he would use tax incentive packages to attract new businesses.

He added he would encourage those businesses to hire locally so “more of our tax dollars would remain in St. Charles Parish.”

St. Pierre, on the other hand, said he has already brought about $3.5 million in new businesses to the parish, and one of the ways in which he has done so is through parish beautification efforts.

“You might see flowers and shrubs,” he said. “I see dollar signs.”