If St. Charles Parish Council members can’t decide by Sept. 24 who should fill the vacant seat left after longtime councilwoman Wendy Benedetto’s departure in August, the governor will fill the vacancy.
Council members were tasked with finding a temporary replacement to serve in Benedetto’s role after her resignation, which was made official Aug. 25.
St. Charles Parish Council Secretary Michelle Impastato said the Council has 30 days (after Aug. 25 and before Sept. 24) to fill the vacancy. Pursuant to LA. R.S. 18:602, if the vacancy is not filled within the time specified, the governor will fill the spot.
By parish charter, the Council has six months after the appointment of the replacement to hold an election to fill the role permanently.
Council members were able to nominate people to fill Benedettos’ seat at the Sept. 8 Council meeting, and two nominations were brought for consideration – Holly Fonseca, Councilwoman-At-Large for Division B, nominated Beth Billings and Julia Fisher-Perrier, Councilwoman for District VII, nominated Buddy Gary Boe.
Both nominations failed to garner the necessary majority vote.
According to the parish charter, the presiding officer of the council – in this case Council Chairman Dick Gibbs – can not vote on the appointment unless a tie vote occurs, in which case he would vote to break the tie.
Samantha de Castro, parish communications director, said at least a 5-2 vote is needed for a majority win.
Council members La Sandra Darensbourg Gordon, Marilyn Bellock and Fisher-Perrier voted in favor of Boe, while Fonseca, Mary Clulee, Nicky Dufrene and Bob Fisher voted in favor of Billings.
“I want to assure residents that I spent a considerable amount of time over the four weeks prior to the meeting vetting interested candidates,” Fonseca said. “Beth really stood out as the best candidate.”
Fonseca said Billings is former small business owner who has served the community through various roles within the Republican Party for several years. Locally, she is President of the Republican Women of St. Charles and a member and former Chairwoman of the St. Charles Parish Republican Executive Committee. She also serves on several state committees and is a 2020 Louisiana Elector.
Fisher-Perrier declined to comment on Boe’s nomination.
Boe currently serves as Executive Director of the River Parish Tourist Commission. He is a former Senior Advisor and Communications Director for Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, as well as former Chief Administrative Officer in St. Charles Parish. He has also held various positions in St. John the Baptist Parish government.
“It is my intention to nominate Beth Billings again at our next meeting on September 21 and my hope that through the process we will reach a consensus and avoid the Governor having to make the decision for us,” Fonseca said.