Lewis pledges public service in Parish President campaign

Published 12:05 am Saturday, September 14, 2019

Editor’s Note: There are three candidates running for St. John Parish President: Jaclyn Hotard, Charles Julien, Terry Lewis Sr., Rodney Nicholas and Randy Vincent. Each of the candidates will be featured over the next few editions prior to early voting, which begins Sept. 25.

GARYVILLE — As the St. John the Baptist Parish President election draws near, candidate Terry Lewis Sr. of Garyville is making a momentous commitment to give back to the community, and he challenges his opponents to do the same.

“I pledge to give half of my salary back to the community, starting with the four high schools,” Lewis said. “I would be willing to put that in writing and have it notarized, signed, sealed and delivered. Let’s make it proper and let’s make it legal.”

According to Lewis’s pledge, half of his first annual Parish President salary would be split between East St. John, West St. John, Riverside and St. Charles Catholic, while half of his second annual salary would fund senior citizen’s services in St. John Parish.

“It’s not about the money for me,” Lewis said. “I’m not a politician; I’m a servant.”

Lewis will appear on the ballot in the Oct. 12 election, competing with Jaclyn Hotard, Charles Julien, Rodney Nicholas and Randy Vincent for the role of Parish President.

As the chief elected official of St. John the Baptist Parish, the new Parish President is responsible for carrying out parish policies and supervising all parish departments and employees.

Parish President Natalie Robottom is term limited in her position and approaching the end of her tenure in office, opening the door for a new administrative leader to guide St. John Parish forward.

Lewis and his wife of 39 years, Lynn Lewis, operate Tori Lynn’s School of Dance in LaPlace. They have four children and seven grandchildren, and he hopes to keep the family together as a unit in St. John Parish for years to come. That’s what he wants for all local families, and he said it can only be achieved by tackling some of the parish’s biggest waster concerns — levees, water meters and drainage.

“I see a great need for strong leadership in this parish,” Lewis said. “We need to have somebody with integrity, someone who is going to do what they say they are going to do and not play politics.”

Lewis said there should be meetings where Parish administration and employees look back through water meter records, even if it means going back two or three years, to establish a baseline reference for accurate readings in each household.

Flooding is another concern in both interior drainage and storm surge protection, Lewis said.

Keeping a close eye on the levee construction process and ensuring contracts are awarded to responsible and qualified bidders will be a top priority, according to Lewis. He would like to see Parish officials take a more proactive approach to storm monitoring and preparation, as thousands of residents will remain vulnerable without levee protection for at least the next four hurricane seasons.

In the event that a storm does shake St. John Parish, Lewis is able to extend an olive branch of help through a close relationship FEMA and the Corps of Engineers.

Lewis worked for FEMA as a safety director after Hurricane Katrina and assisted in securing nearly 45,000 trailers for New Orleans families that lost their homes. He also helped provide impacted families food and clothing in the storm’s aftermath.

Through his nonprofit Pastors United to Lift Lives (P.U.L.L.), Lewis offered worship space for members of four churches that bad been flooded out in the New Orleans area. His other nonprofit is Project H.E.R.O. (Helping Establish a Road to Opportunities), which gives young men and women an introduction into the business world.

With 10 years of experience working in petrochemical plants, Lewis said he will be more apt to addressing residents’ concerns on emissions and coming to agreements with plant managers.

“A lot of things in this Parish can be solved by sitting down and talking,” Lewis said.

He also plans to mend working relations between the Parish President, Sheriff and District Attorney.

“As Parish President and with my experience in criminal justice, I would be more in tune than any of the other candidates to work with the Sheriff and the District Attorney,” Lewis said. “I have a masters degree in criminal justice with a concentration in law enforcement and juvenile justice. The three of us can sit down together and make things better when it comes to crime.”

Lewis said he is the best choice for Parish President because of his compassion. What others experience in St. John are the same issues his family faces.

“My opponents talk to people’s heads as if everyone had a PhD,” Lewis said. “I speak to their hearts, because everyone has a heart.”