Voters give St. John sheriff tax increase

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 23, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

LAPLACE – It is said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Such persistence paid off for St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre as his quarter-cent sales tax increase got the greenlight from voters Saturday as it appeared on the ballot for the second time.
In a reversal of fortune, almost 60 percent of voters gave the OK for the quarter-cent sales tax increase at the polls on Saturday, an indication that public has regained some trust in his administration, according to Tregre, who said his department previously wasn’t “solving cases like we are now.”
“I think it’s a tremendous sign of support from the citizens. They are finally starting to tell us what we need to know. We kind of lost the trust of citizens, and now we’re in the process of re-earning it and getting their confidence back. They’re fed up with the crime. I’m fed up with the crime. Let’s work together and get the people off the streets that need to be off the streets,” said Tregre.   
An almost equal number of voters gave the thumbs down to the tax hike in April, but Tregre attributed the initial failure to being in the wrong place at the wrong time — Gov. Bobby Jindal had just begun peddling his now-scrapped 6.25 percent sales tax increase.
The quarter-cent tax jump will cost residents less than $40 a year, according to financial officers at the department.
The sheriff said he will begin collecting funds from the tax beginning in January but will implement a 2 percent pay increase beginning next pay period. Hiring new officers is also high on his list of priorities — Tregre said the department is in “full swing” with the hiring process. He expects to take on eight new deputies within a few weeks.
Tregre, who is currently attending a conference to scope out crime cameras, also mentioned that the tax would help him initiate random drug testing and psychological tests for his staff.
Some voters in St. James Parish also went ot the polls Saturday to find a permanent replacement for former District 6 Justice of the Peace Eileen Jasmine, who was arrested in March and charged with malfeasance in office, theft and issuing worthless checks.
Sixty-four-year-old Sylvia “Sue” Williams of Vacherie defeated Trinette M. Jasmin, the daughter of Eileen Jasmin, by a 17 percent difference. Williams took approximately 54 percent of the vote.
Williams, who is a member and minister at Greater Deliverance Full Gospel Ministries of Vacherie, said her 33 years as a teacher’s aide helped her build rapport with the community long before the election took place. A lifelong St. James Parish resident, she went door-to-door with fliers to declare her intention to run.
“I’m excited and pleased. I’m glad that the people trusted and chose me,” she said.
 “I know the community. They all know me because I worked in the school system, and I worked with a lot of their children,” she said.
Williams said she doesn’t have plans for her administration just yet but will do her job to the best of her ability. Most importantly, she is thankful for the support from her community.
“I just plan to be fair and honest and do my job following the law as it says I should do it, with the help of God almighty leading me,” said Williams.