On Saturday, voters will head to the polls to choose the next person to represent St. Charles Parish’s District II seat, which became open when former Councilman Shelley Tastet resigned for health reasons in December.
Tastet’s wife, Mary, is currently serving as councilwoman for the district until the April 6 election. District II covers Ama and a portion of Luling.
Mary Keller Clulee, William "Billy" Woodruff and Vanessa Johnson all qualified for the seat. As of Monday, only 200 residents had voted early. There are 5,095 residents eligible to vote for the new District II council member and Registrar of Voters Brian Champagne said he was hopeful that at least 1,000 people would vote.
"Now it looks like we are going to have a hard time getting to that number," he said.
Woodruff, a Republican from Luling, worked for the St. Charles Parish government for 27 years. He spent two years in wastewater before transferring to public works where he was employed for 25 years as a heavy equipment operator.
Woodruff said that his time in government has given him unique insight into problems facing the parish.
"I really think I can do something good because I know what’s going on," he said. "I saw a lot of the problems and I think I could help expedite things."
Woodruff said he plans on helping parish workers by providing better training in order to make their jobs easier.
He said the main issue he will tackle if elected is securing a levee on the West Bank.
"We definitely have to have a levee. We have $22 million in the bank waiting to start it and I want to find out what the hold up is," he said.
He added that the parish also needs to build a new boat launch on the West Bank. The only parish-owned launch is located in Des Allemands and is difficult to use, Woodruff said.
"We have a lot of sportsmen in St. Charles Parish and they have to either go to Pier 90 or Des Allemands," he said. "The launch in Des Allemands has been a pain for a lot of the residents that live there."
Clulee, also a Republican from Luling, worked for UPS for 20 years before starting her own company with her husband, Neal. Clulee, 61, says she is now semi-retired and is able to put in the time and effort needed to serve the district.
"I think I am capable, well informed, committed to our community and I know our district," she said. "I attend public meetings and I was co-chair of the 2030 Land Use Committee. I have the time and the patience to pursue this."
Clulee said she will work towards securing a West Bank hurricane protection levee and would like to see a planned road from Highway 90 to River Road in Luling come to fruition.
"Right now people travel down Barton Avenue, which is a very narrow road through a neighborhood," she said. "I’d like to see the new connection so we can pull traffic off of Barton."
She also believes that the recently completed Western Tie-In on the St. Charles-Jefferson Parish line will cause major drainage issues in Ama that could call for the construction of a pump in the area.
"I am very familiar with the permitting process and what you have to go through when you deal with the Corps of Engineers," she said. "I basically attended all meetings for the Western Tie-In."
Johnson, a Democrat from Ama, worked for the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office for 30 years before her retirement. The 54-year-old has written five books, freelances for the Times-Picayune, works as a substitute teacher and is heavily involved in operations at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Ama.
"I’m retired and I’ve always had a love for helping people," Johnson said. "When Shelley retired I thought this would be the perfect time to get involved and do what I love to do."
If elected, Johnson plans to tackle drainage issues and help the parish get a much-needed levee on the West Bank. She hopes to lead a revitalization effort to clean up and improve parish neighborhoods while also offering more entertainment for children.
"There are not enough activities for children that would keep them busy," she said.
Whoever wins the election will serve on the council until 2015.
Polls open on Saturday at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. To find your voting location, visit www.voterportal.sos.la.gov/voter.aspx.