St. John Council elections not over yet

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2011



LAPLACE – Candidates in six of the nine seats on the St. John the Baptist Parish Council must continue to campaign for votes and encourage residents to return to the polls for the Nov. 19 runoff election, which is just three weeks away.

The primary election last Saturday produced runoffs in council districts 1 through 5, as well as the at-large Division A. In the Division B race councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard, who could not run again in District 4 because of term limits, beat newcomer Nelson Guidry outright on Saturday. District 6 candidate Larry Snyder ran unopposed and District 7 incumbent Cheryl Millet also had no challengers.

The most crowded race in the council election was District 1, in which Art “Dokie” Smith and Norward “Norm” Johnson were the top vote getters of the six in the race. Smith, from Edgard, finished with 23 percent, while Johnson, from LaPlace, finished with 21 percent.

Smith said he had spoken with nearly all of the candidates who missed the runoff and all verbally agreed to give him support to ensure the seat remains in the hands of someone who lives on the west bank of the parish.

“This election is bigger than me,” Smith said. “This is about those residents of the west bank who feel forgotten. The residents of the west bank don’t want their voice on the council to be weakened.”

Johnson, meanwhile, said he is planning to hold a couple of rallies on both sides of the river so that all residents of the district can get to know him and his platform for the district.

“I want residents on the west bank to understand that the seat is not moving,” Johnson said. “They will still be the majority in the district. They will not be losing any power. I will still fight for them.”

The District 2 race pits Garyville accountant and political newcomer Demetria Robinson Carter against former council member Ranney Wilson. Carter received 29 percent of the vote, while Wilson received 30 percent.

Neither candidate could be reached for comment, but Carter said before the election that blighted housing, additional Sheriff’s Office patrols and more focus on senior citizens in the district were the major platforms of her campaign. Wilson said he would like to work to continue the improvements made to the parish drainage system, with particular emphasis on areas with long-term high water issues. He also wants to see continued improvements to the parish’s water systems, continued enhancements to recreational facilities and the expansion of programs for youth, adults, senior citizens and the handicapped.

In the District 3 race, Reserve residents Lennix “Tweet” Madere Jr. and LaToya F. Julien, both political newcomers, will compete in the runoff. Madere garnered 46 percent of the vote, while Julien gathered 41 percent.

Neither candidate could be reached for comment, but Madere said before the election that he wants to continue the parish’s work to overhaul drainage in the district. He said he wants to focus on small business training and said he would resist the placement of mobile homes in single-family neighborhoods unless residents want them there.

Julien, the wife of current councilmember Charles Julien, who did not seek re-election, said her focus would be on expanding recreation and continuing the drainage projects already in place in the district.

The District 4 runoff includes former St. John School Board member Matthew Ory and political newcomer Marvin “Butch” Perrilloux. Ory finished with 45 percent of the vote, while Perrilloux finished with 33 percent.

Ory said there are lots of little things that need to be taken care of in the district, including expanding recreation facilities so they are more secure and cater more to people with disabilities.

“There has been huge investments in recreation, and that element seems to have been overlooked,” Ory said. “I fought 15 years on the School Board for proper playground equipment at schools, and I will do the same for the parish.”

Ory also said the parish needs to be more adaptive to seniors citizens in the parish and that there needs to be more diverse offerings for them.

Perrilloux could not be reached for comment but said before the election that his priorities include continued improvement to the parish drainage and sewage systems, hurricane levee protection and helping to improve and expand the parish recreation department. He also wants to see more support in attracting new business and making sure those business look to hire parish residents first.

In District 5, LaPlace political newcomers Michael Wright and Clifford Hebert will compete in the runoff. Wright received 43 percent of the vote, while Hebert received 31 percent.

Although young, Wright said he is excited about the opportunity to serve the community and added he has developed strong support during the primary election.

“I’ve found that people are ready for a change and want new blood, new energy and new ideas,” Wright said. “Communication is a huge priority, and I am looking forward to listening to the concerns of residents.”

Hebert said his biggest obstacle on the campaign trail has been getting people to know who he is. He is a lifelong resident of the parish and said his family has a history of public service that includes his uncle, former Sheriff Percy Hebert.

Hebert said wise spending on the part of the parish could go a long way toward improving the lives of all residents.

“Our parish could be great,” Hebert said. “We don’t have a lot of money, but we can do things better if we spend that money wisely.”

The Division A council-at-large race pits incumbent Lucien Gauff against former councilmember Richard “Dale” Wolfe, who left the council last year. Gauff finished with 43 percent, while Wolfe finished with 39 percent.

Neither candidate could be reached for comment, but Gauff said before the election that he would like to “continue fighting for better recreational opportunities and facilities, as well as creating economic policies that improve the tax base and quality of life while respecting the uniqueness of the community.”

Wolfe said that he wants to continue where he left off when he left the council including working to create employment opportunities for all residents of the parish and supporting the expansion of recreation programs throughout the parish.

“I have dedicated my services to the people of St. John Parish for the past 34 years and I have worked tirelessly for everyone and for the betterment of the parish as a whole,” Wolfe said. “I know the people of St. John Parish. I know the needs of the people and I am a people person. I will continue to put the people first.”