Election 2019: Access to recreation needed in District 6
Published 6:36 pm Saturday, September 7, 2019
Editor’s Note: Candidates will be predominantly referred to by first name in this story to avoid confusion.
LAPLACE — Recreational gyms and facilities based in Reserve should be expanded to neighborhood parks to allow greater access and opportunities for LaPlace children. It’s one of the priorities Parish Council District 6 candidates Warren Snyder Jr. and Tonia Schnyder each pledge to focus on for the next four years.
One of the candidates will fill the seat of term-limited Larry Snyder to represent constituents living in Cambridge, English Colony, Virginia Colony and the area from Greenwood to Madewood in LaPlace.
Election Day is Oct. 12, and both candidates are eager to show St. John the Baptist Parish what they have to offer.
Warren Snyder Jr. (Councilman Larry Snyder’s nephew) is an AAU basketball coach and a recreational basketball coach of 10 years. He’s served on the recreation board for the past eight years, and he feels there should be more available to the children to help steer youth away from crime and toward better opportunities.
Tonia Schnyder (no relation to the Snyders) is equipped with 13 years of accounting experience and 20 years’ experience as an operator at Shell Refinery, giving her a unique understanding of water management.
On the topic of recreation, Tonia said extra incentives are needed to reverse the drastic decrease in enrollment for St. John Parish teams.
“A lot of our kids are going to travel teams or out of parish teams,” Tonia said. “We’ve had volunteer coaches for years and years, and they’re not being rewarded. We need more parental involvement and administrative involvement.”
Fields could use updating, and there should be more volleyball courts, splash pads and other outlets for children in the local neighborhood parks. While more is offered at Regala in Reserve and at Thomas F. Daley Memorial Park on Highway 51, Tonia said the economically disadvantaged children who need recreation the most don’t always have the transportation to get there.
In addition to improved access to parks, Tonia believes in expanded summer camp activities and nonprofit involvement. She’s participated in the Blessed to be a Blessing Backpack Extravaganza and annual Thanksgiving food drives.
Tonia is passionate about special needs children and adults. She works with the St. John ARC each year for the Mardi Gras ball and volunteers for East St. John’s Special Needs Prom.
Warren Snyder would also like to see more gyms and baseball fields added to LaPlace, the most populated and fastest-growing area of St. John Parish.
“We need some more employees in recreation,” Warren said. “We have 14 parks, but we only have 6 employees in the recreation department.”
An expanded recreation program would include not only basketball, baseball/softball, football and soccer, but also golf, dance and even skateboarding, Snyder said, reasoning the department should mirror children’s interests.
“Recreation could do a lot for the children as far as crime is concerned with the youngsters,” Warren said. “If we give the children something to do, not just with sports, but with an after school program, they can be able to do their homework and have volunteer teachers available. That way, they wouldn’t be out in the streets just wandering around.”
Warren advocates for partnerships between recreation and the St. John Sheriff’s Office to show children officers are here to protect and serve. He feels mentorship is an important component to youth development, and he always strives provide guidance to the young people he coaches.
Councilman Larry Snyder has served as a role model and a father figure to Warren. When contemplating running for Parish Council, Warren got reassurance from Larry that he would be a good fit for the position.
“My passion for the community makes me qualified,” Warren said. “I love the community. I’m a person who speaks up. I’m a Christian, so that’s No. 1. Whatever I say I’m going to do, I’m going to do. I’ll be very approachable to hear their concerns, and they can knock on my door at any time.”
Tonia is also passionate about the community. She’s a firm believer in teamwork in government, knowing that if the head is not together, the body will fall apart.
“For years, I have incited unity in our community,” Tonia said. “Until we come together and support each other, we’re never going to advance.”
To help St. John move forward, Tonia said economic development should offer incentives for businesses to come into the parish. She would like to start a committee to check up on new business owners and find out what resources they need to be successful.
According to Tonia, permits and procedures must be streamlined to become user-friendly.
Tonia is a huge proponent of the River Parishes Community College Reserve campus, believing it to be an ideal route to a high paying career. She’s a graduate of the technical college in Reserve, and it has afforded her the comfortable life she hopes to extend to others in the parish.
Water & Infrastructure
As an operator of 20 years, Tonia understands the mechanics of water treatment and air quality. She works as a team to keep water systems balanced and she believes the St. John Parish water system should be monitored more closely. According to Tonia, remote monitors help identify water problems before they grow out of control.
In addition to understanding administration and checks and balances from her background in accounting, Tonia also listens in on every Parish Council meeting and stays abreast of happenings within the parish. She’s also been a member of the emergency response team in firefighting for 17 years, and she maintains a close connection to emergency personnel.
Warren believes St. John Parish is on track for economic growth, but he said there is much work to be done in regulating water bills, seeing the West Shore Levee Project through to completion, and putting more dollars into drainage.
“Every candidate has said those are the priorities, so it shouldn’t be a problem after these four years,” Snyder said.
He knows firsthand how flooding can impact his district. When Hurricane Isaac struck in 2012, he took a school bus to the back neighborhoods of District 6 to transport residents to safety.
Snyder, a father of four, has been married to Lahouma Taylor for 17 years. He is a deacon at New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Reserve, where he is on the Board of Trustees and also helps manage church finances.