St. Pierre vows to hold employees accountable
Says they will be responsible to get the job done or suffer the consequences
However, St. Pierre soon regrouped from his injuries by signing on for a job in the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office, a move he credits with bringing him out of his shell. Soon after, St. Pierre helped his father run a welding and fabrication business, which he retired from three weeks ago.
With the wealth the sell of that company brought him, St. Pierre could have fished, hunted and golfed his way through the next chapter of his life. Instead, the 62-year old opted for a different path, that of parish politics.
After recording 46 percent of the vote in the Oct. 20 election, St. Pierre left no choice for his closest competitor, Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux to concede the election. For St. Pierre, the future is now.
St. Pierre recently sat down with Herald-Guide Editor Jonathan Menard to discuss his recent campaign victory and his future goals for St. Charles Parish.
First of all, how does it feel to have won the parish presidency?
"It feels great. I was really surprised when Mr. (Clayton "Snookie") Faucheux called and told me that he planned on dropping out. That took a lot of guts on his part and I admire him for it. I think it's going to help pull the parish together because if we had gone another four weeks it could have gotten ugly and we would have had to spend a lot more money. Mr. (Albert) Laque pledged his support for an easy transition so I think it's going to work out well."
Why do you think you received so much support? What was it about your message that you think people identified with?
"I don't really think it was my message. I think people wanted a change. As you look at all the races in the parish, all the incumbent's lost. It wasn't just St. Charles Parish, but the whole state felt that way and Katrina had a lot to do with that. I'm not a politician- I'm a businessman and I really think a lot of people voted for me because of the way I've handled my life. I was handicapped for a long time and I didn't think I was going to be anything to society. I worked at the sheriff's department for six years, which really brought me out of my shell, then my dad and I went into business for 32 years and we were successful and met a lot of people.
With the apathy among voters nowadays, which makes it hard to get people to the polls, how tough is it to run a successful campaign?
"It was much harder than I thought it would be. I had run for a district race when I was a police jury man, but we didn't have nearly the amount of population at the time. We have 55,000 people in our parish and we have a lot of republicans and a lot of democrats. I think our strongest asset was that we had a lot of retired people that backed me up and they had a lot of time on their hands to do the walking at any time of the day. They were energized and they really pushed me. Two or three times in the campaign I really got in a slump and you need those people to charge you up again. Part of the message I tried to send in my campaign was bridging our communities and that's what it meant- try to get republicans and democrats, whether their young, old, black or white, to come together and focus on being a great parish. We need to all team up and do what's right for the parish."
Were you surprised that the election was fairly clean?
"The last two parish president's elections have been determined in the last two weeks of the election. Whatever camp it was that came out with the Gary Tyler deal came out with it way early, which really benefited me. That's when my campaign took off. The people were tired of hearing that kind of stuff- especially the blacks on the East Bank because they know that Gary Tyler was the guy who pulled the trigger on that day in Destrehan. We had a lot of black supporters that stuck their neck out for me."
What made you want to enter the race in the first place?
"I always felt that later on in life, when I retired, this is something that I would want to do. I officially retired three weeks ago, so here I am. I am 62 years old and I love to hunt, fish and play golf and those types of things, but I think you would get bored to death doing that everyday. I always wanted to do something in government and Mr. Laque was term limited and the race was wide open, so I decided to give it a shot."
Was there anything going on in the parish that made you want to get into the race?
"I had so many people come to me and tell me ‘V.J., you know what is going on in this situation or do you know what is happening in this subdivision?' That created suspicion in my mind that maybe things aren’t on the up and up. Of course, none of that has been proven yet."
What are some of your personal traits that you think will come in handy as parish president?
"I'm not a great public speaker, but my biggest asset is pulling people together, assembling a team, focus them on a common goal, and hold them accountable to reach that goal. The team I'm going to put in place, I'm going to set directions, I'm going to turn them lose, and I expect them to do the job. I expect results and if I don't get results then there will be changes. I've got an agenda set and that's the way I want it done."
What are going to be some of your top priorities when you take office?
"The top priority is getting that hurricane protection levee. Also, that pumping station behind Willowridge came in $9 million over budget. There's something wrong there. I think the pumping station they built on the east side of the river in Bayou Trapanier came to about $9 million. So, almost the same pumping station there for $9 million and now we are talking about $19 million, so something is definitely wrong. We need that pump, but we need to revisit it. Did we give the engineering company the wrong specs? Is our pump size wrong? Nobody on the council or the parish president even challenged the bid. I can understand it coming in 5, 10, 15 percent over budget, but when it is 80 or 90 percent over budget, we have to look at it and see what's wrong. For $19 million we ought to be able to build three pumping stations somewhere."
Speaking of pumping stations, which one of the levee routes do you support?
"Well, I understand that we are supposed to be getting the permits for the northern alignment this week. My personal opinion is that if we can get that permit, we need to go with it. We are living on the edge right now and those people need some protection."
Is your job going to be harder or easier, considering most of the council is going to be new and inexperienced?
"I would hope that it would be a lot easier. The history of our parish is that we always did something a certain way all the time. With eight new bodies, eight new minds, eight new personalities, I think it could only help. I think the biggest asset of having a new council is that they don't know how to play the game, so to speak, and that's what we need. We need people who don't want to know how to play the game and just want to do the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time."
For you to consider your presidency a success, what do you have to accomplish?
"I'm not going to take credit for the levee because I know that Mr. Laque and Mr. (Chris) Tregre have worked very hard to try to secure these permits and they should get the credit for anything that happens to that levee. I think my legacy is going to be built on the people I appoint to office and the honesty and integrity I bring to the job. One of the things I want to accomplish over the next four years is that we need to make sure that our basic systems, the water, the sewage, and the garbage are in place and that we have adequate facilities to carry us for the next 20 years. Right now, I understand the sewage system, especially in Hahnville, is on the verge of maxing out. I want to be sure that when I leave office in four years, that all of our infrastructure is in tip-top shape. We also need to make sure that we are held accountable for all the money we spend. I don't want to spend $19 million on a pumping station that I know is going to cost $8 million. I want people to be able to trust their politicians, not to say that we have a corrupt parish, but I want them to say ‘the man did a good job and he did exactly what we put him in office to do.'"
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