Attending were parish President Paul Naquin; sheriff candidates Patrick LaSalle and Jack Smith; District 1 candidates H.B. Bell, incumbent Craig Mathews and Butch Metz; at-large District 9 candidates incumbent Albert Foulcard and Rodney Olander; at-large District 10 candidates incumbent Steve Bierhorst and Darian Breaux; and at-large District 11 candidates Greg Green and incumbent Kevin Voisin. Not attending were presidential candidate Gary Duhon; and sheriff candidates incumbent Mark Hebert and George Rodriguez.
The forum at West St. Mary Civic Center was moderated by Tamarlon T. Carter.
Sheriff candidates Patrick LaSalle said he is in his fifth term as police chief in Patterson and a retired 38-year veteran and former commissioner of the Louisiana State Police. He also said he is the chairman of the board of the Law Enforcement Executive Management Institute.
“I actually train the chiefs of police for the state of Louisiana,” LaSalle said.
“My mission is to change the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office to make it a department of service to the people,” he said. He asked rhetorically, where is the sheriff’s sub-station that was promised to the Four Corners community 20 years ago?
LaSalle claimed to be the only candidate who attends 24 hours of in-service training each year, and the only local police chief to stay abreast of new laws.
He asked the other candidates, “When was the last time you made a physical arrest? I did, about 40 days ago,” he said in answer to his own question.
He said he’s an expert in the field of narcotics having worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals, FBI and other agencies.
“No sheriff since the 80s has done anything about trying to stop drugs coming into this parish,” he said. “I will do what needs to be to serve you … I will become a part of your community and I’m not looking to put people in jail but educate the ones that are in there so that they don’t come back.”
Smith said he agreed with LaSalle that change is needed in the sheriff’s office.
He pointed out that Hebert, who was appointed in July to serve out the unexpired term of Sheriff David Naquin was not present. Earlier LaSalle had said, “Where is that one that was anointed?”
“You would think that your acting sheriff could make enough time to come out here and tell us his views and why he should remain in that office,” Smith said. “But if he won’t come to see you now, what’s he going do after Saturday?”
He told the crowd of about 100 to pass the word to their neighbors “how your current sheriff feels about your community. If he’s not going to take enough time to come out here and tell us how he wants to improve things, get drugs off the streets and help our kids, all these things that this community needs, including a sub-station, then he’s not going to be here on Sunday after Saturday either.”
Smith said he has records of leadership and success with a degree in criminal justice, police experience as an officer, time served as the parish coroner and almost two decades as a state representative.
“I want to bring that record to the sheriff’s office to give you the best sheriff’s office for your tax dollars.” Smith said.
Parish president incumbent Naquin told the crowd that he was born and raised in the area at a farm in Glencoe and has been married to Sandra Biggs Naquin for 49 years and has three sons. He said he’s a graduate of Hanson Memorial High School in Franklin. His work career included time in the sugar cane business until he started in 1966 with Texaco where he worked his way up from a roustabout to a production supervisor. He retired from Texaco after 32 years. He added that during that time he also ran his own exterminating business.
“I am committed to making St. Mary Parish a better place to live and raise our families,” he said. “I am also the first member from St. Mary Parish … to be elected to the Police Jury Association as president.”
He said he also serves on the board of the National Association of Counties and many other state boards.
District 1 candidate Herbert Bell said he’s a lifelong resident of St. Mary Parish and has owned H.B.’s Lounge in Baldwin for 27 years. He’s also been a school bus driver and served on the parish grievance committee and the Kemper Williams Advisory Board.
“My goal if elected is to make St. Mary Parish a good place to live … I have some ideas that can help it be a better place ,” he said. those ideas include promoting economic development, establishing a fire sub-station and creating youth programs.
“We’re going to help stop this east and west division, we want a complete parish not a partial parish,” he said.
Incumbent Mathews said he’s spent the 17 years of his adult life devoted to the community. He’s been on the parish council for the past four years and previously worked as a community housing director, for Community Action Agency and director of Bayou Teche Community Health Network.
“In every capacity of leadership that I’ve served, I’ve never been more honored to stand before you than as your District 1 councilman,” he said. He added he’s been the only District 1 representative “to come into this community and work closely with every board and commissioner.” He took credit for conducting the first leadership training seminar for appointed officials which is now required by the state.
“We established it right here in District 1,” he said.
Metz said he served District 1 on the council from 1992-2000.
After having served two terms he ran for the at-large seat and lost, he said.
“My kids told me they wished I had won, but they were glad that I lost because of the time that I had missed with them,” he said. “And that’s the reason I haven’t ran for the last 12 years, because of my family.” He’s been married to Velva Metz for 30 years and has three kids.
“This job is about the community, the district and the people that you serve,” he said. “It’s not about self, self has no place in politics.”
He said some of his goals include improving parks and preventing flooding.
In at-large District 9, longtime incumbent Foulcard had the crowd in stitches telling about an early campaign that he lost and life since.
“We weren’t there to win, we were there to make a good showing,” he said. After he finally won, he said he then realized “winning isn’t everything, it’s what you’re going to do when you get in there.”
After having lost one wife due to politics who got mad and went back to New Orleans and another that went back to Houston, he said. now “I’m married to the courthouse.” And, “I represent everybody in St. Mary Parish.”
He said he’s been told he’s too old.
“I’m not too old, I’m good, I feel good, I feel good about myself, I feel good about you … please my number is 75 and I’ve been (on the council) since ’75.” He concluded.
Olander said he too, is a lifelong resident of St. Mary where he lived in Cypremort Point for 30 years and Franklin for the past 18 years. He’s married to Nell Verrett Olander with four kids.
“I’m a commercial fisherman, that’s what I do for living,” he said.
Some of his goals include bringing jobs to the area and providing flood protection.
“I will work closely with the rest of the council to see what we can do to get new businesses …, also get the funds together to get our levees built,” he said.
In at-large District 10, incumbent Bierhorst of Patterson said he’s been married to Josie Cremaldi for 41 years and has two grown children.
Bierhorst served on the Patterson City Council for 14 years, eight of which were as mayor pro-tempore. He’s been on the parish council as both representative for District 5 and at-large District 10 for 16 years and is the current chairman. He’s been on the Patterson Volunteer Fire Department for 40 years, 24 as chief.
In that capacity, he told the group, the PVFD helped train volunteers for the Four Corners VFD when it was established and gave them equipment.
He added that he formerly served on the 911 board when the call system was first established, and also served on the Wedell Williams Aviation and Cypress Sawmill Museum.
“It’s all about giving you, the residents of District 1, a voice in what you want to do,” he said. “Amongst many other things, what I’d like to see happen, especially in District 1 is the completion of I-49.”
Breaux of Patterson said he’s a 1990 graduate of Morgan City High and also graduated from Southern University in New Orleans where he played basketball. After school he taught school for nine years and married his wife, Brandy LaFleur. They have three children. Breaux returned to school to earn his master’s degree from Northwestern State University and is now employed as a recruiting supervisor for Oceaneering International in Morgan City.
“I also work with Young Memorial (South Central Louisiana Technical College) and ITI (technical College) out of Baton Rouge on two committees that we work on building better curriculum to better train young kids coming out of high school,” he said. “We always talk about economic development … it all starts with training and education and bringing businesses in here, with that we bring revenue, and then we can do all the stuff that we need to do.”
In at-large District 11, Green of Morgan City said he graduated Morgan City High in 1989, served in the U.S. Navy from 1991-1995 and then went to work in the oil field and its service industries.
“One of the things I’m passionate about is my family and my community,” he said. “If a person is in trouble, who comes to their aid? A family will gather around that person and help them when they need help. If a family is in trouble who helps that family? It’s the community that gathers around. When a community needs help the government should be there to help it.”
Strong government is based on economic development with good jobs and good pay and benefits, he said.
“When our parish is doing well, our families do well, our communities do well,” Green concluded.
At-large District 11 incumbent Voisin, 44, of Morgan City said he has been married to Becky Alleman Voisin for 20 years and they have one son. For the past 23 years he’s operated his own business, Atchafalaya Bail Bonding Service.
He said being self-employed has afforded him time to devote to the parish council during the past 12 years he’s served as the District 7 representative.
“I’ve always tried to be a team player,” he said in reference to working with the District 1 representatives of the past and present to see projects completed. “I’m glad to have been a part of getting (the West St. Mary Civic Center) built, it’s a beautiful facility, and I’d love to see once we break ground and cut the ribbon (on the La. 318 and U.S. 90 interchange) and get rid of that death trap sitting out there right now.”