Trailblazing assessor remembered

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2012



LAPLACE – Members of the St. John the Baptist Parish Assessor’s Office on Monday remembered the life and legacy of former Assessor Henry J. Hotard Jr., who passed away Friday at the age of 72.

Hotard, who served as assessor for 28 years before his retirement in 2004, was seen as a courageous political leader who showed great concern for his community.

“He was more than a boss, he was a great friend,” said Whitney Joseph Jr., who worked as Hotard’s chief deputy assessor before he succeeded him in office. “He was one of the greatest politicians I have ever known.”

Joseph said Hotard, a resident of LaPlace, hired him in 1974 as the first African-American chief deputy assessor in the parish at a time when 65 percent of the parish’s registered voters were white.

“I think it was a great risk at that time, but that was the type of person he was,” Joseph said. “He changed the politics in St. John Parish.”

Joseph, who was a school teacher and member of a community organization with a goal to get more African-American residents involved in politics when he started in the assessor’s office, said he and Hotard learned a great deal from each other as they worked together in the assessor’s office.

“Henry Hotard understood what we were trying to do with our group,” Joseph said. “That sort of thing wasn’t happening at that time.”

Joseph said Hotard never pushed him or his group to support any other candidate for a political office. He said Hotard never put any demands on anyone.

“The only thing he ever asked of me politically was for me to vote for him,” Joseph said. “He allowed me to be myself.”

When Hotard retired as assessor in 2003, he encouraged Joseph to seek the office and endorsed him in the election. Joseph became assessor in 2004.

Joseph said he and Hotard were great friends, and Hotard visited the office about a week before his death.

Hotard was a member of the Louisiana Assessor’s Office, where he served in multiple positions including president of the organization. He began working for the assessor’s office in 1996 and was chief deputy before being elected to the office in 1974.

St. Charles Parish Assessor Clyde “Rock” Gisclair remembered Hotard as an assessor who was interested in promoting education within the office. He and Gisclair often met to discuss pending issues regarding the homestead exemption and other pending legislative matters.

Funeral services for Hotard were held Tuesday in LaPlace. He was laid to rest in the St. John Memorial Gardens Cemetery.