St. John Parish’s next Council member is …
Published 12:11 am Wednesday, February 15, 2017
LAPLACE — More than a year of turmoil and a rotation of representatives for residents in St. John the Baptist Parish District 7 is coming to an end next month following a special election to fill the Parish Council seat.
Incumbent Councilwoman Cheryl Millet announced in 2015 she would seek another Council seat, which led to a fall race between three candidates, eventually won by Buddy Boe.
Six months into Boe’s term on the Council, he announced his resignation in order to serve as senior advisor and communications director to Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser.
Parish Council members followed Boe’s departure by naming Raj Pannu to an interim role on the Council as the District 7 representative.
A special election was later called to fill the seat fulltime, and three candidates are now vying for the spot, in hopes of bringing certainty to a region that has seen many faces come and go over the past 18 months.
Three men qualified for the election last month, each listing LaPlace addresses and Republican affiliations with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office. They include James “Buddy” Duhe, Steven Fraker and Thomas Malik.
Election day is March 25, and early voting runs March 11-18.
The last day to register to vote for the March primary is Feb. 22.
James “Buddy” Duhe
Duhe told L’OBSERVATEUR he was born and raised locally and has lived in LaPlace his entire life. According to Duhe, he is serving an internship as a lobbyist at the state capitol.
“I’m running because I have a passion for where I live and my community and I want to see continued positive growth that we’re seeing right now,” Duhe said. “I want to see more people settle in St. John Parish, grow in St. John Parish and raise their family. I just want to continue seeing all the good things that are happening right now.”
Duhe touted Ochsner’s hospital development and mental health facility plans in LaPlace, fire station construction and new government complex work as signs of progress he is excited about and motivated to continue in seeking public office.
“We got the levee bill signed by the president and now we’re going to have to get the funding from Congress,” he said. “That is a big positive for our area. Hopefully when I win and become Councilman, I can continue to work with all of our elected leaders to keep those things going.”
Duhe said he is concerned young families are moving to St. James Parish and Ascension Parish, often motivated by schooling options.
“Our schools are good, but some people just want to send their kids to non-private schools and they go to Ascension Parish and St. James, where they are a little better,” Duhe said.
“But, our public schools are on the rise, doing good. I would like to see more young families stay here, work here, play here and live here.”
Duhe said he loves St. John Parish and wants to continue seeing good things happen.
“That is really why I am running,” he said. “I want to be part of the good, positive growth of our wonderful parish.”
Steven Fraker, Economy Bookkeeping and Tax Service president, sees his roles on the Parish Council as one to build a positive business environment, grow the economy and create jobs for local residents.
His platform includes establishing a safe and dependable water system; increasing protection from floods, fire and crime; adding recreation options; and attracting large and small businesses through a positive investment environment.
“I hear the community’s demands that we continue to focus on the positive aspects of our Parish,” Fraker said. “This is a challenging time with all the construction and building both underway and planned for the near future.”
Fraker, recently elected to his fourth term as St. John Parish Business Association president, said its Board members have made the organization’s growth and impact possible.
Fraker said he currently serves as co-chair on the Zoning Board of Adjustments, co-chair on the Coastal Zone Protection Committee and on the boards of the River Region Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Committee, St. John the Baptist Parish Republican Election Committee and Live Oak Landing Home Owners Association.
Fraker is a United States Marine, and he and his wife Kim are longtime LaPlace residents.
Originally from LaPlace, Thomas Malik enjoyed a successful military career before retiring from the Navy and moving back in 2003. He is the ES&J manager for Pin Oak Terminals in Mt. Airy and holds a real estate license.
“There are a couple of things that I think the Parish needs help on,” Malik said. “We’ve gotten approval for hurricane protection, but there is no money for it. That is something the Parish needs. That being said, there is no way it can be done without federal money. The Parish needs to start pushing and really pushing hard for it.”
Malik said the concerns are impacting the appraised value of local property and homes.
“I think the Parish also needs improvement with the water districts,” he said. “Citizens are receiving multiple bills. They are extraordinarily high and we continue to have these water boil notices.”
Malik did not evaluate the state of public government as poor but suggested alternative approaches and room for improvement exist.
He said he can contribute the biggest thing life has to offer — experience.
“I’ve been around quite a bit, traveled the globe a number of times,” Malik said. “I have a good education and a good understanding of the need to protect the parish from these tidal surges for hurricane protection and the negative impact that has on our property. There is a definite need to have new industry coming in. There are so many wonderful things about St. John, and I don’t want to see it teetering between mediocrity and being the model parish for the rest of the state. There are just so many good things that we have.”