Voters will decide next West Bank at-large council member on Saturday
On Saturday, voters will decide between three residents who are vying to fill the St. Charles Parish Council seat that represents the entire West Bank. Each of the candidates for the Division B at-large seat say that hurricane protection is the most pressing issue facing the area, but have differing views on the best way to achieve that goal.
After more than two decades of waiting, construction recently began on the Willowridge Levee in Luling. While the parish has the funds needed to construct that portion of the levee, an entire levee stretching from the Davis Diversion West Guide Levee in Luling to a ridge at Highway 308 in Lafourche Parish is expected to cost $500 million.
Luling Council Chairwoman Julia Fisher-Perrier, 33, who currently serves District 7 and is chairwoman of the Hurricane Protection Projects Committee as well as a member of the levee focus team, says that hurricane protection will require a true team effort.
“I have gained the insight to contribute to our success in securing complete levee protection. We must have a complete plan ready to go when any funding source becomes available,” Fisher-Perrier said. “I will help to contribute to a unified plan moving forward so we will be ready when the time comes.”
Jarvis Lewis, 24, who lives in Luling and is a former deputy with the St. Charles Parish Assessor’s Office, says building a good relationship with the U.S. Corps of Engineers is the first step that must be taken to secure levee protection.
“They control a lot of the decisions and relay many of the messages to Washington, so we must have a good position and a good working relationship with the Corps,” Lewis said. “We’ve got to be able to sit and discuss the issues with the residents and the Corps to ensure productivity.”
After that, Lewis says the parish must develop a good relationship with the area’s representatives in Washington, D.C.
“We shouldn’t have to pay a lobbyist to speak to the people we send to D.C. to fight on our behalf,” he said. “We should be able to do what the residents have asked of us and elected us to do, and that’s to have a communication channel with our D.C. counterparts that bears fruitful results more than just around election time.”
Stanley Hebert, 54, of Des Allemands, says he is the only candidate who has talked about setting up a separate millage for a St. Charles Parish and Montz levee.
“Everyone says you cannot do it,” Hebert said. “Well, if you don’t try it, it will never get done.”
Hebert does not want to accomplish that goal through new taxes, but by instead tapping existing revenue sources to find funding for the levee.
Each candidate also feels they bring certain skills to the table that will help them better serve the area.
Hebert has been in the construction and maintenance field for more than 35 years.
“We have to make decisions on a lot of different projects, levees, pumping stations, looking at prints, bids and various construction projects. Neither of my opponents have that knowledge,” Hebert said.
Lewis said he will bring a fresh approach and “newer thinking” to the council.
“I’ve been one of the citizens who sits back and watches from the audience or on TV as the council meetings go on and I feel I have ideas that can help the approach of governance,” Lewis said. “Second is my rational approach to holistic governance. Third is my belief that every citizen has a voice and that voice should be equally represented.”
Fisher-Perrier said the knowledge she has gained on the council paired with her willingness to learn gives her the tools to best serve the parish as the at-large representative.
“As a current council member, I think I’ve shown to be a successful leader. The council expressed their confidence in me by naming me as chairman earlier this year,” Fisher-Perrier said. “I’ve brought to the table a very subjective set of critical thinking skills. As a mother, wife, businesswoman, homeowner and active member of the community, I represent a wide variety of residents.”
With an eye towards the future, Fisher-Perrier says that highway safety has become a concern as the parish evolves and traffic patterns change.
“A comprehensive traffic plan for the Highway 90 corridor has been on my radar for some time. I plan to work with DOTD, among others, to get much-needed improvements moving,” she said.
She added that drainage issues also require the council’s attention.
“Especially now that levee protection is in the works, drainage plans should coincide with our master plan,” she said.
Lewis also plans to work with state leaders to get state roads in the parish up to driving standards. Additionally, he wants to push for citizen involvement in parish politics, institute a paid fire department and be a voice for sound spending.
“That starts with not only going through the budget on our own time, but showing up to, and asking questions, within the midst of the budget hearings,” Lewis said.
Hebert feels there is too much waste in government and he plans to tackle that issue if he is elected.
“One example is the new recreation complex. After dark, every light outside is on,” he said. “It’s a pretty complex, but it doesn’t make any sense when the parish is asking us to recycle and be earth conscious.”
Hebert also plans to travel the parish to get the public more involved while sending out a quarterly letter to the voters to let them know what is going on in the area.
Election day is Saturday, April 5. Polling locations are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Though the at-large council member represents the West Bank, this is a parishwide election. To find your voting location, go to www.voterportal.sos.la.gov.
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The levee has a long history within St. Charles Parish, but when Kathy Lacompte Bourg and her husband led a group of teenagers down it in the early 1980s, there was no Hale-Boggs bridge and the path was muddy and rocky.