New faces to populate St. John Council

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011



LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council will start next year with a mostly different look as many new faces populated Saturday’s runoff elections for six of the nine council seats.

Three existing council members, Cheryl Millet, Jaclyn Hotard and Lucien Gauff, will remain on the board for a new term. Millet ran opposed in District 7, Hotard moves from her District 4 seat to the Division B at-Large post, and Gauff won his runoff election Saturday in the Division A at-Large seat over former Councilman Richard “Dale” Wolfe.

Gauff, who won a special election in April to replace Wolfe, said the substantially new council offers a new opportunity that the parish should take advantage of.

“It should be seen as a new beginning,” Gauff said. “I think sometimes it is good to have new faces with new ideas that can start fresh, but also come together to move the parish forward.”

Gauff said one of his main concerns is working to bring some new development to Division A, which includes the entire west bank, Mt. Airy, Garyville, Reserve and a small portion of LaPlace.

“Division B has always had more economic development and a higher tax base,” he said. “I will be looking to bring more development to our side so that we can be an equal contributor. Residents in Division A tend to feel left behind, and I want to work with the new council members in Districts 1, 2, and 3 to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

In the District 1 runoff, Edgard resident Art Smith defeated LaPlace resident Norward Johnson. Smith picked up 59 percent of the vote, while Johnson garnered 41 percent. The district includes the entire west bank and a small portion of LaPlace.

Smith said Monday that he is ready to work for all of his constituents but added that he will fight hard to ensure residents on the west bank are brought up to the same standards as the rest of the parish.

“I want to ‘remove the river,’ figuratively speaking,” Smith said. “It is time to look at what is best for all of St. John. We cannot be narrow minded anymore.”

Smith said he wants to focus on improving recreation, drainage and fire protection in his district. He also wants to see more emphasis on the removal of blighted property.

In District 2, former council member Ranney Wilson defeated Demetria Robinson Carter. Wilson gathered 59 percent of the vote, while Carter picked up 41 percent.

Wilson said although he made no promises during his campaign, he has already started working on a list of issues he wants to bring forward in the new year.

“I really believe there are more issues in this district than in any other in the parish,” Wilson said. “There are still quite a few drainage and sewer problems that need to be looked at and corrected.”

Wilson said he wants to see more movement on an Interstate 10 interchange in the Reserve area that would steer traffic off Airline Highway, and he also wants the parish to give strong consideration to moving the parish seat from the west bank to the east bank.

The District 3 runoff had political newcomer Lennix “Tweet” Madere defeating Reserve resident LaToya Julien, wife of current District 3 Councilman Charles Julien. Madere received 54 percent of the vote, while Julien picked up 46 percent.

Madere said he has always had close ties with the Juliens and added he and the current councilman have discussed many of the issues facing the district.

“Drainage, recreation, jobs and blight have always been the big issues, and that is where my focus will be,” Madere said. “I want to represent the people proudly, and I want them to be proud of me.”

In the District 4 race, Marvin “Butch” Perrilloux defeated former St. John School Board member Matthew Ory. Perrilloux garnered 57 percent of the vote, while Ory received 43 percent.

Perrilloux said Monday he is “excited and just overwhelmed” by the support, and he is ready to go to work for the district. He said in the coming weeks he plans to walk the streets of District 4 to hand out “thank you” cards and get a handle on what constituents want from him.

“I know drainage continues to be a problem, especially in the LaPlace Park and Foxwood areas,” Perrilloux said. “There has also been an increase in criminal activity in the region that I feel needs to be addressed.”

In District 5, Michael Wright defeated Clifford Hebert by the overwhelming margin of 70 percent to 30 percent.

Wright said his victory is a credit to the hard work of his large group of supporters who walked the streets with him on several occasions.

“We listened to the residents and talked to a lot of people,” Wright said. “We heard a lot of issues, some that cannot be solved in four years but many will be looked at immediately. I can tell you that drainage continues to be the number one priority, and that is across every district in the parish.”