With two current council members running for the post, the St. Charles Parish Council at-large Division B race is certainly an interesting one.
Paul Hogan, who is terming out as District 4 councilman, and Jarvis Lewis, at-large Division B incumbent, are facing off in the Oct. 24 election primary.
A resident of Des Allemands, Hogan’s government experience includes having served as a District IV councilman for eight years.
Before becoming a council member, Lewis, a resident of Luling, served as an administrative intern with the parish government and learned how the administration worked and how each department functioned. He also worked for parish Tax Assessor Tab Troxler as deputy tax assessor for two years. Last year, Lewis was elected to the Parish Council and has served as councilman at large in Division B.
Both Hogan and Lewis named drainage and levees as the parish’s top concern. Lewis added responsible spending as a top issue.
“I’d like to see a new drainage study to pinpoint flooding and how the water is flowing,” Lewis said. “I want to see us get control of our spending so we can accommodate these projects. There is money there that we’re spending and we can redirect that funding, such as more on levees. What use is it if we create a bowl with the levees and can’t pump water out.”
Hogan said affordable flood insurance and hurricane protection go hand in hand.
“Affordable flood insurance for the parish is contingent upon us having levee protection, which meets FEMA requirements,” he said. “Having the parish president and the parish council keeping this on the front burner is the No. 1 task that will need to continue to be heavily pursued over the next four years. Without having affordable flood insurance, nobody will be able to afford staying in their homes.
“Also, related to the flood insurance, is the reauthorization of the flood insurance program that Congress will be taking up in 2017. Our job as elected officials, in conjunction with all elected officials around the country, will need to be heavily involved with our representatives in Washington, D.C., to ensure that the reauthorization bill they will put in place will ensure affordable flood insurance.”
On overall key parish issues, Hogan singled out infrastructure improvements, such as addressing sewer inflow and infiltration and maintaining streets as two of the major items the parish needs to address.
Additionally, he cited the need to fairly and uniformly interpret and enforce parish codes, which he said he has been “relentlessly pushing our various departments to follow during my eight years serving as councilman.” He said he has amended numerous ordinances “to eliminate the gray area in the codes with respect to having the ability to selectively interpret and enforce the codes. The code needs to say what they say clearly and concisely, not what someone interprets it to say.”
Lewis’ key issues include fiscal responsibility, responsiveness to constituents and the need to improve internal governmental relations.
“I want responsive and effective leadership, as well as commitment to community development that encompasses a whole slew of things, including continuing the levee project, ensuring the road maintenance program stays on top of the need, drainage so people don’t have to worry about their houses flooding and working with the courts and recreation to ensure youths have things to do in the summer,” he said.
“We need to make sure relationships between us and industry are strong, as well as building a solid future by sustaining our community with smart growth by doing the planning and investing in the infrastructure in the future on a timely basis.”
Asked who was the better candidate for parish council, Lewis said that he’s proven himself as a doer who works with the people and gets things done.
“I think my understanding of how our local government works make me a better candidate,” he said. “My intimate knowledge and experience with the budgetary process will help me work with future administrations and help work with re-crafting a budget and look at modernizing the charter like we’re doing with the code now.”
Hogan said, “My having a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering, my 30-plus years of construction and engineering experience, and my eight years serving as a district councilman” make him the stronger candidate. “My experience brings knowledge and experience that applies to most issues which we as a council have to address and which we have to make decisions on.”
He added, “My opponent is relatively young and has not been exposed to what I have been over the years.”
Lewis said his strength as a councilman is being “more of a unifier rather than a divider” and added, “I won’t find myself in a position to disenfranchise somebody. I take time to understand to their issues.”
Asked how they foresee the parish growing in the near future, Lewis said tax revenue will probably grow in the parish, not because we’re going to raise taxes.
“I do think we’ll see an uptick in population because everywhere I go I meet people who say they want to live in St. Charles Parish,” Lewis said. “They think it’s a beautiful place to live. It’s a quiet and quaint place. There’s more to life in the parish. As we go forward, we’re going to see big changes in the way things are done. More people are still coming into the parish and others moving. But as we grow, we’ll see new industries coming in new places, like the AM Agrigen fertilizer plant. Those plants are making multi-million-dollar expansions and creating jobs. Overall, I see positive growth happening and positive impacts that could potentially come from that growth.”
According to Hogan, parish growth will continue with commercial and industrial facilities.
“Having these businesses increases our tax base, which benefits all of our parish,” he said. “With respect to residential development, this will remain at a standstill until we know that we will have affordable flood insurance and hurricane protection levees.”
To keep the parish growing, Hogan said he would continue working on eliminating the obstacles of flood insurance and lack of certifiable hurricane protection.Lewis said he would focus on forward thinking and innovative leadership.
Asked what each candidate thought made him a good leader, Hogan said it comes from the experience he received from his father, who was a jack-of-all trades and taught him right from wrong.
“This, along with my extensive construction experience in management positions, has served me well and will serve the parish once again as it has while serving as a local councilman,” he said.
Lewis said it was his open, forward-thinking approach.
“My ability to not just see a problem but think potential solutions, and see how we can drive that change to occur not to just let things play out,” he said.
As to what kind of job the current administration has done, Lewis said it has done a wonderful job.
“There are a lot of things people don’t necessarily agree with, but this administration has handled over $100 million in projects because of their relationships,” Lewis said. “They picked up the ball and built working good relationships all over our government. We got projects done in parks and roads, etc. rather than just hoping it worked out. They were proactive. We’ve seen public works departments that has been unmatched in the projects it has handled. We saved money because we have good, strong people in all those offices.”
“I have to give them a “B” rating overall,” he said of an administration he served in as councilman. “I have seen drastic improvements with various departments such as planning and zoning, the department for which I received the most complaints.”
Hogan said the department heads, for the most part, have done their job fairly except for a few cases where it appeared decisions were made from higher up in the administration.
“The administration has also proposed several ordinance changes to address issues that really needed to be addressed,” he said. “When these major revisions came up, I took my time to review and make amendments to the proposed changes to make sure that the changes were clear, concise and warranted.”