Election 2019: Sorapuru & Madere contend for At-Large Division A

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 14, 2019

LAPLACE — Drainage and recreation development are among the biggest priorities for the St. John the Baptist Parish Council, according to Lennix Madere Jr., who is seeking the At-Large Division A seat in the Oct. 12 primary election.

Madere has served as the District III Councilman for nearly eight years in St. John Parish. Now term-limited in the position, Madere is challenging incumbent Larry Sorapuru Jr. for the Division A position, which represents residents in Garyville, Reserve, Edgard, Lucy, Wallace and parts of LaPlace.

Sorapuru earned his At-Large seat in 2015, first securing a runoff spot when he and Sylvia Taylor-Dunn were the top two vote getters in a three-candidate race, Sorapuru topped Taylor Dunn a month later in the runoff.

Youth-focused activities are a shared aspect of Sorapuru and Madere’s platforms. However, Madere places a stronger focus on drainage, which he said has been an ongoing problem in St. John Parish for decades.

“Since I first got in office, the main thing I mentioned is that I wanted a drainage crew that could work everyday clearing drains, cutting grass,” Madere said, adding he quickly faced opposition from Parish administration. However, he has continued to fight for a drainage department with regular drainage updates at Parish Council meetings.

“I do believe that could be a real big accomplishment if we accomplish that in the next administration,” Madere said. “Everything we have wrong in this parish deals with water. Drinking water, drainage water, sewage water.”

One accomplishment during his term was the development of a new oxidation pond, set to open by the end of next week.

“That should help a lot of people in Reserve and probably LaPlace with the sewage problem and (keep it from) backing up,” Madere said Monday after touring the facility.

The startup of the West Shore Levee Project has been another accomplishment. However, Madere said the job is not done. While a levee will keep storm surge out, he said drainage problems leave little protection for the homes and businesses inside the levee’s protection during rainstorms.

“If all drains were open and clear, you could handle it without flooding,” Madere said. He proposes the Parish Council dedicates itself to solving drainage problems with additional equipment and manpower. He warns against additional large-scale concrete development, which he said has inflicted flooding issues in newer areas of LaPlace.
Madere said he has dedicated himself to serving the public for decades. He was an educator and a coach for 38 years, and he worked diligently with the recreation department from 1975 to 1990. He never sought a Parish Council position until after retirement, believing it’s a role hat requires 100 percent of one’s time and dedication.

“When I’m in the Council meetings, I stand up for the people who put me in office,” Madere said. “Being a Councilman and going for At-Large, I’ve always said I’m not a politician. I’m an elected public servant. I enjoy doing this type of work. When you enjoy doing something, it’s not work.”

He feels what the people feel, including frustration for violence that has plagued the community.

“I know the greatest assets are the kids in front of me because they are going to be future leaders, future parish presidents, teachers and everything else,” Madere said. “We have to do something to help the kids in the community because we have too many killings, too many drugs episodes.”

Sorapuru agrees there is a need to install more youth-oriented programs and facilities within the Recreation Department. There are many areas for improvement he sees within St. John the Baptist Parish that he hopes will build upon his first cycle in office.

Before his term is up, Sorapuru hopes to see the beginning of the West Bank bike path project. Within the next few years, he hopes to add a boat launch to the West Bank and eventually reinstate the Edgard-Reserve ferry to drive tourism to the area.

Public transportation is an area he feels could see improvement.

Sorapuru is an advocate for St. John Parish becoming an independent tourist commission separate from other parishes. He wants to assist in economic growth, including the development and retention of small businesses that employ local people. In terms of housing, there are a lot of adjudicated properties overseen by St. John Parish that Sorapuru would like to sell to nonprofits or use for first-time homebuyer programs.

He also sees a need for a local medical facility comparable to St. James Parish Hospital and increased engagement with the Reserve River Parishes Community College campus.

Among the most pressing of the priorities is to improve the St. John water lien system, according to Sorapuru.

“One accomplishment we had was putting a water line under the river where we can go to the East Bank and the West Bank,” Sorapuru said. “Larger lines would give us the capacity to produce more water throughout the parish. With expansion of the water plant, we would double the size of the filters we have which would automatically improve the quality of the water we bring to the customers.”

Some Parish Council successes during his first term included replacement of sidewalks on the East and West Banks, upgrade of the Pleasure Bend water system, use of recovery funds to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Isaac and development of 23 new affordable units in the Garyville Housing complex.

Sorapuru additionally took trips to Washington to lobby for the federal levee project. He said his understanding of how the government is designed to function makes him an ideal candidate.

“I want to make changes to policies and procedures in place to simplify and make it understandable for people in the community to work closely with government,” Sorapuru said, adding he is open to forming more partnerships with nonprofit organizations.

“I’m a very open-minded person,” Sorapuru said. “I’m receptive to new ideas. I believe in being proactive. I’ve seen so many good opportunities get sidetracked with political strongholds that government really should have taken the opportunity to not make political decisions, but make the necessary decisions to improve the quality of life in our communities.”

Sorapuru is a member of several community organizations, including the West Bank Stakeholders Organization, the West Bank Civic Association, the St. John Parish Democratic Committee and the fundraising committee for Boy Scouts of St. John Parish.

He attends many meetings with the Concerned Citizens of St. John regarding local air quality concerns.