Parish President headlines positions to be settled at Saturday’s election

Dwayne LaGrange (left) and Matthew Jewell

Votes will be cast and St. Charles Parish leadership and representation settled in this Saturday’s election. In this space, we preview what awaits on the ballot.

ST. CHARLES PARISH PRESIDENT: Incumbent Matthew Jewell of Luling and Dwayne LaGrange of Hahnville will face off for St. Charles Parish’s top job, the parish president’s office.

Jewell, 34, seeks reelection as a Republican after leading St. Charles Parish through the dual challenges of Hurricane Ida and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Luling native is a former district director for Congressman and Republican Whip Steve Scalise, and spent time working at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. as a legislative advisor. Before taking the parish president’s seat, Jewell previously served on the Louisiana Board of Regents, a state agency that coordinates all public higher education in Louisiana.

Hahnville candidate LaGrange, 55, seeks the parish’s highest elected position after serving around 28 years in local law enforcement, working his way through the ranks before retiring as an assistant commander. Known to many as “Officer D,” LaGrange served for years as a D.A.R.E. program instructor, guiding local youth within the St. Charles Parish Public School System to avoid drugs and alcohol. LaGrange, who is running as an Independent candidate, is a longtime United Way board member. He previously worked on the executive staff of a prior St. Charles Parish administration.

COUNCIL AT LARGE DIVISION A: Destrehan residents Dick Gibbs and Michael “Mike” Mobley will compete for the open Parish Council At-Large Division A position, a slot current Councilmember Beth Billings will vacate in January before settling into her new District 56 State House of Representatives seat.

Gibbs’ background includes time served as chairman of the Planning and Zoning for eight years prior to becoming councilman in District III, a seat he held for another eight years, one he will “term out” of this year. As a two-term council member, Gibbs has served on numerous boards and committees, including the Community Action Advisory Board, Sunset Drainage District Board of Commissioners and the St. Charles Parish Retiree Benefits Funding Trust Board of Trustees.

Mobley is a longtime St. Charles Parish resident, who first moved to the local area in 1978. The council member candidate spent most of his career in the retail auto parts industry, and previously owned his own auto parts store in St. Charles Parish. He worked as a district sales manager for national auto parts retailer NAPA Auto Parts for many years before retiring.

CLERK OF COURT: The St. Charles Parish Clerk of Court’s race has attracted three candidates this election season, with candidates Lori Brown of St. Rose and Nicky Dufrene of Des Allemands seeking to unseat incumbent Lance Marino of Norco in the upcoming election.

Democratic candidate Brown is a 59-year-old retired teacher who had a 30-year education career, with 15 years of that time spent in St. Charles Parish Public Schools. Brown currently runs an education-based nonprofit called Education Resources Unlimited, specializing in literacy activities primarily for preschool-aged children.

Clerk of Court candidate Dufrene, 50, currently holds the Councilman District IV seat on the St. Charles Parish Council, a position he has held since 2020. Lifelong St. Charles Parish resident Dufrene (R) is president of civil construction firm DuFrazier Services LLC.

Now nearing the end of his third term as Clerk of Court, Marino, 61, took office in 2012 after first serving on the St. Charles Parish Council for one term each as District VI council member and later Councilman at Large, Division A. Marino (R) is a Certified Clerk of Court thru the Louisiana State Certification program, is a member of the Louisiana Clerks of Courts Association, and serves on two state-level Clerk of Courts association related boards.

COUNCIL DISTRICT III: Republican candidates Walter Pilié and Webb Jay IV will face off for the St. Charles Parish Council District III seat, a position soon to be vacated by termed out Council Member Dick Gibbs.

Pilié, 71, and Jay, 42, are both Destrehan residents, each bringing a distinctive set of experiences to their Parish Council campaigns. Jay is a business owner who runs a local real estate brokerage firm, while Pilié is an engineer who spent much of his career involved with offshore oil and gas production before formally retiring eight years ago.

Jay previously ran for the same District III position eight years ago. He has served as the Ormond Civic Association president since 2011 and was appointed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment in 2016, a board he currently chairs.

District III candidate Pilié’s experience in St. Charles Parish government extends to zoning, as he was at one time on the Zoning Board of Adjustments and was also on a Bonnet Carre Spillway Committee prior to the Army Corps of Engineers taking over its management.

COUNCIL DISTRICT IV: Voters will decide between a political newcomer and a former councilman as Republicans Willie Comardelle and Paul Hogan campaign for the District IV council seat.

Hogan served 12 years on the St. Charles Parish Council from 2008 to 2019, first as District IV Councilman and then as Councilman at Large for District B. The Des Allemands native is seeking a return, he said, to be a loud and effective voice for those in his community.

Comardelle, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard who served in active duty following 9/11, has deep local roots – and also family roots in public service, including his grandfather, stepfather and mother. He worked for more than 10 years with Dow Chemical before leaving to pursue a career in business development.

COUNCIL DISTRICT V: The district council seat in District V will be contested between a maritime and environmental law attorney, a retired military veteran, and the founder of a non-profit aimed at helping at-risk youth. Republican Michelle O’Daniels, Democrat Ryant Price and Independent Anthony Straughter Sr. will vie to represent the district in the upcoming election.

O’Daniels has set aside her full-time law practice to pursue the seat and with it, she says, a chance to make a difference. She is also grant writer and consultant for Matthew 25:35 Ministries food pantry in Destrehan and a court appointed special advocate for children.

Straughter, a lifelong St. Rose native, is the founder and president of the Dr. K Movement, a non-profit organization established in 2012 in an effort to help guide today’s at-risk youths to stay on the right path, while also encouraging people who have been convicted of crimes in the past to make a positive impact on society, and providing them a platform to do so.

Price served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps and 22 years with the National Guard, retiring with the rank of Major. He spent 22 years working in the chemical plant industry as well, at Cornerstone and Evonik. The 34-year resident of St. Rose has also served as District V’s Planning and Zoning Commissioner.

COUNCIL DISTRICT VII: Two Luling residents and political newcomers will challenge for the council seat in District VII as Republicans Michele DeBruler and Daniel Dugas square off.

Born and raised in St. Charles Parish, Dugas has worked for the parish government in several capacities – in drainage, recreation and wastewater departments. Currently, he works for Bayer in District VII.

DeBruler was the principal of Mimosa Park Elementary School for 17 years, and in all has spent 25 years in administration as a school principal or vice principal. She retired from the school system last year and was the longest tenured principal in the history of MPE.

STATE SENATE’S 19TH DISTRICT: Democrat Marilyn Bellock and Republican Gregory Miller will both seek the State Senate 19th District seat, vying for a senatorial district that spans Jefferson, Lafourche, St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes. The 19th District state senate seat is being vacated by Norco attorney Gary Smith, a registered Democrat whose term ends this year.

Like Smith, Miller, 61, is also a Norco-based business owner and attorney who has practiced law in the region for close to 35 years, with a law practice focused primarily on property law, including wills, estates, successions and similar matters. Miller seeks the State Senate position after serving three terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives, District 56.

Bellock, 62, is a 30-year St. Rose resident, military veteran, business owner and current two-term St. Charles Parish Council District V council member. The St. Rose resident sits on multiple political and nonprofit committees and boards, ranging from the Sunset Drainage District, South Central Planning District, State of Louisiana Black Caucus, Louisiana Policy Jury Association, among others.

 

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