2011: the year that was

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 31, 2011

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – 2011 was a year with many highlights across the River Parishes.

Much of the year was dominated by political campaigns as elections, both local and statewide, took place in October.

While the political landscape of St. Charles Parish remained much the same, both St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes saw changes in some of the highest political offices.

Mike Tregre, a former employee of the St. John Sheriff’s Office, ran for sheriff and handily defeated incumbent Wayne Jones in the primary. Tregre will take the reins July 1, 2012.

Meanwhile in St. James Parish, Timmy Roussel was elected to take over as parish president. While this race came with less drama than the sheriff’s race in St. John as outgoing Parish President Dale Hymel decided not to seek re-election after 20 years in office, the changes that come with a new administration are inevitable.

The sheriff’s office was not the only St. John Parish government entity to receive a sweeping makeover this year. The parish’s Housing Authority also is a much different body now than it was when it began the year. January saw the ouster of almost the entire Housing Authority Board, and soon after a new board was installed, Richard “Dale” Wolfe, who assumed the position of executive director of the Housing Authority in the latter part of 2010, was terminated. After an extensive search, Trina Henderson was named the new head of the Housing Authority in November.

January also brought the sentencing of former St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to bribery charges, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in federal prison. His successor, Natalie Robottom, had a small victory in January when the Edgard-Reserve ferry returned to service after being out of commission since 2007.

Officials in St. James Parish celebrated a victory of their own a couple of months later as they helped break ground on construction of the Nucor steel and iron processing facility in Convent. The deal that brought the facility to the parish was announced in late 2010 after several months of deliberation.

Around the same time, flooding fears were beginning to surface in the River Parishes as the Mississippi River, which gives the area its moniker, swelled with snowmelt and flooded many areas farther north. The river never overtopped the levees in southern Louisiana thanks in part to the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish. The flood control structure was opened for only the 10th time in its nearly 80-year history.

As flooding worries subsided, a new worry cropped up in the minds of many residents of the River Parishes. Three murders, half of the total homicides in St. John Parish in 2011, occurred in the same neighborhood in Reserve within days of each other. The sudden crime wave spawned a few community movements and even caused Sheriff Wayne Jones to form an 11-man task force to tackle the problem.

While several arrests were made, at least one of the crimes remains unsolved.

The end of the summer brought St. John’s residents the reminder of another horrific crime as Errol and Tonya Victor skipped town just before they were to appear in court. The Victors are accused of killing Tonya Victor’s 8-year-old son, M.L. Lloyd III. The couple remains at large.

The year, however, ended on a more upbeat note as the St. John Parish Young Marines expanded its work with the veterans of the region. In November, the group helped stage St. John Parish’s first ever Veteran’s Day Parade.

This was followed up with a holiday drive, co-sponsored by L’Observateur, that collected many gifts for the residents of the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve.