Special meeting scheduled
By Howell Dennis
CROWLEY – At a special meeting of the Acadia Parish Police Jury, jury members heard strong arguments from both sides on the possible hiring of a Parish Administrator.
The main argument, it seemed, came from people who wanted to see the parish economy receive a boost and an increase of business in the parish.
At the beginning of the meeting, Police Jury President A.J. Credeur asked for the opinions of some of the elected officials that were present, most of which were in favor of hiring an administrator. The name most mentioned for the position was Rayne Mayor James “Jimbo” Petitjean, though two other people, Van Landry and DeAnne Henke, submitted their names for the position as well.
“I’m not here to influence people,” said Acadia Parish Tax Assessor Russel Benoit. “But I am here to say a few kind words about Jimbo. I’ve known him since he was young and I look at what he has done for Rayne and I can tell you he would do the same for our parish.”
Acadia Sheriff Wayne Melancon said “the Sheriff’s Department will support whatever decision you make. However, the progress that Rayne has made since Jimbo has become mayor is obvious.”
“We need to get things going,” said Estherwood Mayor Bill Maples. “Jimbo is the guy to get us moving forward.”
Iota Mayor John Sittig was somewhat more critical.
“This sounds to me to be more like a confirmation,” he said. “How has this been decided? Was anyone else considered?”
Cade Benoit brought up how the issue was handled by the prior administration.
“There were a lot of tied votes and people were understandably frustrated,” he said. “However, a citizen’s committee was created in 2004 to explore our options and we approved their recommendation to hire an administrator. We spent thousands in advertising and received only two applications.”
A.J. “Fatty” Broussard said that he recalled that the person they were looking to hire was required to be an engineer and Katry Martin was selected. Because of a tied vote, however, Martin didn’t receive the position.
“Nobody else really knew about submitting their resumes,” Broussard added.
“As far as I’m concerned Katry Martin won the vote 4-3,” said Juror Al Stevenson obviously still annoyed at the tie vote.
Juror Kermit Richard wanted to be sure that nobody overlooked the job that Police Jury Secretary/Treasurer Terry LaCombe had done.
“Jimbo is a very good man but LaCombe has been doing a good job as well,” he said. “Should we spend $100,000 (potential administrator’s salary) of money from our budget for this?”
“I took this position because I hoped to come together and bring jobs to Acadia Parish,” said Juror T.J. Sonnier. “We need someone who can work full-time to come in and do our parish bidding while we serve as an advisory group. Our parish operates on a $30,000,000 a year budget - can you tell me one corporation that has a budget like that with no one in charge.”
Some of those in attendance broke into applause.
A job description for the Parish Administrator was passed out to those in attendance.
“I’m looking at this and it is basically the same as what I do,” said LaCombe.
Some of the jurors noted that the previous job description didn’t mention anything about the economy and attracting business.
Some jurors and people in attendance seemed to be concerned about the $100,000 salary that the appointed administrator would receive.
Al Stevenson pointed out that the person who filled this position would not be “Acadia Parish’s first $100,000 man.”
“We have $16 million in reserve,” added Credeur. “We are far from being broke.”
Paul Broussard gave an impassioned speech in support of the hiring of a parish administrator.
“We cannot afford to wait,” said Broussard. “The jury must move forward or the economy will pass us by. If you don’t fund progress it won’t happen.”
After all the discussion, Juror John Quebodeaux moved that the Police Jury meet in two weeks to discuss in detail the job description, the parish administrator, and economic development. The motion was seconded by Felton Moreau.
The Police Jury will have another special meeting on January 27 at 10 a.m.