Still busy in quest to improve St. Charles Parish
|Photo by Jonathan Menard|
St. Charles Parish President Albert Laque fielded a call at his desk last week. Laque has served three terms as parish president and has spent a majority of his life in politics.
How did you first get interested in politics?
“I was working for Shell Oil Co. in Norco and some guys came to me, in the parish here, and said they would like me to run for justice of the peace. I didn't want to be marrying nobody man, I had a problem with that (laughs). When they couldn't convince me, they tried to talk me into running for something else. I was just a kid then, 27-years old, that was two or three years ago (laughs). I wanted to run for police jury, so, just being a kid and all, I ran for the job. People were telling me that I was crazy because I would never beat the guy I was up against because he had been there for 30 years, but I just went door-to-door and visited every house, at that time, in Des Allemandes, Bayou Gauche, Paradis, Boutte, and Mimosa Park. A lot of people laughed at me, but when they opened the machines, I had the votes. Then I had to figure out what the hell to do (laughs).”
What do you enjoy the most about it?
“Anytime I can help somebody, for whatever reason, that makes me feel good. If an old lady from one of the towns ask you for a streetlight, and you could do that and she would write you a nice letter back, that just does something for me. That's been the story of my life.”
Why did you decide to run for parish president in the first place?
“It's just something I really wanted to do. When I first ran, that was the time they started doing polls. I got in on it, but the guy who was doing it would meet with each one of us individually to go over the results. He showed me that the top guy only had 25 percent and he told me that I had good votes all over the parish. I didn't know that I was going to win, but I did, and I just like it. Right now, I hate to leave. You never finish all that you want to do."
What are some of your proudest achievements?
"I put the first shovel of dirt on the east bank for the first time for the levee there. When I got elected again, I told the corps that I wanted to build a levee and I told them to tell me where we needed to build it. The construction isn't going fast enough because we are spending our own money, but we are doing all right. That's something I would like to finish and I would like to get the corps to agree to help us pay for it. They've done that on the east bank, but they haven't done it over here yet. That's what I'd like to do. Some way or another, I am going to try to see that that gets done. We should also start to pump it by the end of the year. I want it done, and I want to see that pump started because that way they can't stop it."
How has the parish changed throughout your time in government?
"It's just unreal. It's a lot larger now. We used to have only two plants here and by the time I got into government, one of those shut down. You had mostly sugarcane farmers and fishermen. Then, the plants started to come in. They brought in a lot of new people that had different ideas than the regular ole sugar farmer did. They wanted changes overnight, which we couldn't do naturally. In the budget, when I was president of the jury, I think our budget was about $200,000. Now, you spend that a day almost."
Has has the parish come together?
"The parish used to operate, like the waterworks, within districts on their own. When I got elected parish president, we changed all that. We put the waterworks’ districts together and made one parish department out of it. There were always these little different deals and people taking care of each other, and that don't work. We just have a good system and we have generally done well."
What have been some other major changes?
"Well, taxes have gone up now, but they have gone up everywhere. For some reason, people think you can get work done for nothing and it just doesn't work like that. This Katrina deal, let me tell you something, out of all the parishes, we had our stuff together. We had a different attitude. We wanted people and businesses to come here. The state allowed the parish president to be in charge and I made room for those workers. All the top people from industry came down, saw the decisions we were making, and were impressed. I think the parish has done real well under the circumstance."
What are some of your interest outside of the realm of politics?
"I really don't have any. When I was young, I used to fish and hunt, but that was years ago. Outside of that, I try to watch ball games and hang around with my grand kids, but you can't do that too much in this job. I normally go when we have conventions, and that's a few days, but it's work. Outside of that, I really don't have any. My work takes up all my time. I guess you have to be crazy, but I like it."
What do you plan to do now that you have some free time?
"Well, that scares me. I can't stay home with the woman all day (laughs). I have a couple of jobs offered to me, but I don't know if I could work for somebody else since I have been the boss for so long. But I think I am flexible enough to where I could do it well. I think for a few months, I am just going to cool it, but I don't know how. I guess I am from the real old school, but I just hate to leave, I really do. Not for anything in particular, but there is just so much work to be done.
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