Council races crowd St. John Saturday ballot

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011



LAPLACE – Five of the seven parish council districts, plus one of two at-large seats, will be on ballots across St. John the Baptist Parish for Saturday’s runoff election.

The Oct. 22 primary produced runoffs in council districts 1 through 5, as well as the at-large Division A. Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard, who left her seat in District 4 because of term limits, won the Division B at-large race outright. Political newcomer Larry Snyder and incumbent councilwoman Cheryl Millet ran unopposed in Districts 6 and 7 respectively.

The Division A council-at-large race pits incumbent Lucien Gauff against former council member Richard “Dale” Wolfe, who left the council last year. The seat represents half of the parish’s 29,000 registered voters and includes the entire west bank, the Garyville and Reserve communities and a small portion of LaPlace.

Gauff, who joined the council last year after winning the special election to replace Wolfe, said 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 he wants to continue where he left off when he departed from the council, including working to create employment opportunities for all residents of the parish and supporting the expansion of recreation programs throughout the parish.

The race for District 1, which represents the entire east bank of the parish plus a small portion of LaPlace, pits Edgard resident Art “Dokie” Smith against LaPlace resident Norward “Norm” Johnson.

Johnson, the only candidate from the east bank to run for the seat, said he has support from the other four primary candidates and has written letters of endorsement from third-place finisher Carolyn Johnson and fourth-place finisher Keith Miller.

“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.”

Smith, however, said he has worked diligently to ensure that the council 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.”

In District 2, which includes Garyville, Mt. Airy and a portion of Reserve, Garyville accountant and political newcomer Demetria Robinson faces former council member Ranney Wilson.

Carter said blighted housing, additional Sheriff’s Office patrols and more emphasis on senior citizens in the district, have been the major focus 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.

The District 3 race includes Reserve residents Lennix “Tweet” Madere Jr. and LaToya F. Julien, both political newcomers. The district encompasses nearly all of the Reserve area.

Madere, a longtime teacher and high school basketball coach in St. John Parish, said 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 District 3 council member Charles Julien, who did not seek re-election, said her focus would be expanding recreation and continuing the drainage projects already in place in the district.

The runoff in District 4, which includes LaPlace neighborhoods immediately west of Belle Terre Boulevard and also encompasses neighborhoods east of the Colony subdivision, pits former St. John School Board member Matthew Ory against political newcomer Marvin “Butch” Perrilloux.

Perrilloux 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.

Perrilloux said he has also received a written endorsement from third-place primary candidate Sandy West.

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. He 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.

In District 5, LaPlace political newcomers Michael Wright and Clifford Hebert will compete in the runoff. The district consists of Peavine, new and old U.S. Highway 51, River Forest, McReine Road, Walnut Street, Montegut, Riverland Estates and parts of West Fifth to the St. Charles Parish line.

Although young, Wright said he is excited about the opportunity to serve the community and added that 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.

“We don’t have a lot of money, but we can do things better if we spend that money wisely,”he said

All council positions receive $8,230 annual pay are eligible to participate in the parish’s health insurance program.