Moving the needle forward: Hotard swears in as Parish President

Published 1:43 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2020

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EDGARD — In fall 2003, Jaclyn Hotard was a 24-year-old working mother. Critics and naysayers told her she was too young and too inexperienced to stand a chance at being elected to the St. John the Baptist Parish Council.

Yet, she became youngest Council member to be sworn in during the January 2004 Inaugural Ceremonies, and three more successful Parish Council elections have followed in the 16 years since.

In October 2019, Hotard won a five-way race for St. John Parish President by a landslide, collecting 9,664 votes and 67.55 percent of the turnout. The second-place vote getter received 1,999 votes.

Hotard was sworn into office Monday along with nine Parish Council members during the 2020 St. John the Baptist Parish Inaugural Ceremonies at the Edgard Courthouse.

The new Parish Council includes District 1 Councilman Kurt Becnel; District 2 Councilman Warren “Bosco” Torres Jr.; District 3 Councilwoman Tammy Houston; District 4 Councilwoman Tyra Duhé-Griffin; District 5 Councilman Robert J. Arcuri; District 6 Councilwoman Tonia Schnyder; District 7 Councilman Thomas Malik; Councilman At-Large Division A Lennix “Tweet” Madere; and Councilman At-Large Division B Michael P. Wright.

Torres, Houston, Duhe-Griffin, Arcuri and Schnyder are newly elected to the Parish Council. Becnel and Malik have maintained their previous district seats, while Madere and Wright have moved from district seats to an at-large capacity.

Hotard said it is the highest honor for all elected officials to be chosen to lead St. John Parish into its next chapter. That chapter begins now, and progress is dependent upon moving the needle forward instead of watching the clock.

“To every voter in St. John, thank you for standing with me on Election Day,” Hotard said. “I heard your voices loud and clear, and I will work each day to live up to the remarkable challenge that you have so graciously placed before me.”

During her Inaugural Address, Hotard said her heart was full of humility in knowing the position is not about her, but rather, the love for the community in which she was born and raised, and respect for the people who have trusted her so dearly.

One special guest in the packed courtroom audience was Southern University Law Chancellor John K. Pierre. Two lessons Pierre has instilled within Hotard in her law school journey were to begin with the end in mind and to always “shoot your shot.”

“Today, Mr. Pierre, is a result of me shooting my shot,” she said.

To the Parish Council, Hotard committed to work with each elected representative to improve their respective districts and the parish as a whole.

To the public, Hotard vowed to work toward a unified St. John Parish in actions, decisions and words. She also advocated for an open-door government with a focus on truth, transparency and accountability.

“We must be inclusive in our thinking and fair and equitable in our distribution of parish resources and energy to ensure no part of our community feels left behind, or even worse, is left behind,” Hotard said. “We have a chance to make a difference. Our choice is to decide if we want to watch the clock or move the needle forward. I’m asking you to join me in moving the needle forward.”

As Parish President, Hotard intends to invest in bold new infrastructure, make a people-friendly government and set the table for economic prosperity.

“I remember a time when the finances of the parish were much different than they are today,” Hotard said. “There was a time when projects and programs had to wait in line for years for professional approval. We no longer get to say we don’t have the resources to do projects that our community so desperately needs.”

Hotard was joined by her husband, her father and her daughter, who also had a big day Monday as a member of the LSU Color Guard during the National Championship game.

Several St. John Parish judges and attorneys were on hand to guide Parish Council members through the Oath of Office. Attorney Sylvia Taylor remarked how pleased she was to see a new generation of leaders filling the room.

“I was a trailblazer, and now I’m proud to see young people coming up behind us,” Taylor said.

American Legion Post 383 led the presentation of colors and the Pledge of Allegiance. Father David Ducote of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church delivered the invocation, and Bishop Antoine M. Jasmine of Choice International Ministries led the benediction.