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Election 2019: Rodney Nicholas feels passionate about public service

Editor’s Note: Every Parish President candidate has had an individual profile story featured in L’OBSERVATEUR in recent editions. Please see lobservateur.com or visit the office at 116 Newspaper Drive in LaPlace to access other candidate stories. Early voting begins Saturday and lasts through Oct. 5.

LAPLACE — The best indicator of future success is past performance, according to Rodney B. Nicholas, candidate for St. John the Baptist Parish President.

Nicholas is uniquely qualified for the Parish President role, equipped with a background in public policy, 30 years of industry experience at Shell Oil/Motiva enterprises and experience in four different areas of local government.

In addition to serving as a St. John School Board member, Economic Development chairman, a Board of Commissioners member for the River Parishes Tourist Commission and Chief Deputy Assessor, Nicholas has demonstrated direct fiscal responsibility in managing and balancing a multi-million dollar budget.

Nicholas will appear on the Oct. 12 ballot along with Parish President hopefuls Jaclyn Hotard, Charles Julien, Terry Lewis Sr. and Randy Vincent, all contending to become the chief executive leader of St. John the Baptist Parish.

In the event that none of the candidates secure more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off between the top vote getters will be held Nov. 16.

“I am running because I love my community, this is my purpose and calling, and I am very passionate about building on our current success and even taking St John Parish to the next level,” Nicholas said. “It is my desire to increase the quality of life for our residents, and to give back to the community in which I was born and raised.”

Nicholas’ first priority for St. John Parish is to work aggressively with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal, state and local officials to continue progress on the West Shore Levee Project.

“The $760 million dollar, 18.5 miles West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Levee Risk reduction project is the most important infrastructure project in the history of our Parish,” Nicholas said. “It will ensure that our residents, businesses, and the I-10 corridor are all protected from dangerous floodwaters. This will stimulate economic development, lower flood insurance premiums, increase property values and build equity for our residents.”

Secondly, Nicholas will propose an ambitious stimulus plan for economic development on both the East and West banks. He will advocate for the development of an elevated boardwalk and mall, complete with shops and restaurants on the Lake Frenier – Interstate-10 corridor.

“This elevated boardwalk and mall will attract shoppers traveling from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in either direction, and those traveling to and from the Hammond area in both directions because we are so centrally located,” Nicholas said. “This will allow our parish to ‘import money’ for the first time attracting potential customers and consumers because the mall will be visible from Interstate 10.”

Governor John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Economic Development have declared the West Bank of St. John Parish an “opportunity zone,” opening the door to special tax incentives to attract businesses and industry to low income areas, according to Nicholas.

If elected to the Parish President seat, Nicholas will promote clean industry on the West Bank by urging companies with high-tech, high paid jobs with low environmental impact to relocate to Edgard, Wallace and Lucy.

Nicholas said his next priority is to propose community youth development centers on both sides of the river. Doing so will reinvest in the youth by providing better exposure to opportunities, according to Nicholas. He added that accessible indoor gymnasiums would be crucial to providing year-round recreation.

Lastly, Nicholas is the only candidate proposing an amnesty program to cancel unfair and excessively high water bills. He said the program would operate similarly to the amnesty program passed by the city of Atlanta.

“I will also propose completely redoing the permitting process for businesses and residents,” Nicholas said, noting that if government doesn’t work for the people, government doesn’t work at all.

Nicholas said he would aggressively advocate for the development of a protected water distribution system from the river. In order to ensure health and safety of all residents, Nicholas also plans to pursue complete compliance for all industrial facilities operating in St. John Parish to EPA and LDEQ regulations.

According to Nicholas, the most important issues in the Parish President’s race are leadership, integrity and trust.

“Leadership is ultimately about influence, and a leader’s actions should inspire others to dream bigger, to work harder, to become a better version of themselves, and prepare future leaders to become stewards of the next generation,” Nicholas said. “That’s the true test for leadership. A real leader has a economic development vision for the future our parish that includes both short-term and long-term goals.”

Nicholas said a leader must also have the education and skill-set necessary to match his or her vision. It’s a requirement he has fulfilled as a candidate for a Ph.D. in public policy.