Incumbent Larry Cochran, along with opponents Reanda Fields-Pierre and Matt Jewell, told a packed room at Destrehan Plantation why they are the best candidate for St. Charles Parish president.
Tuesday’s forum, held by the River Region Chamber of Commerce and Destrehan Plantation in Destrehan, began with opening statements and then a round of questions.
Jewell, a Republican, emphasized his being a parish native and resident, as well as Hahnville High School graduate. As a district director for Congressman Steve Scalise, he said his experience is in building coalitions that could benefit the parish in 100-year flood protection, improving drainage and advancing infrastructure for economic development.
“People say they’re ready for a change,” he said.
Cochran, a Democrat, began by outlining his last four years as being a term marked by progress on key projects including the West Bank levee system and building more than 1,800 feet of levees, investing $12 million in wastewater improvements, working to control flood insurance rates and the agreement that would bring 100-year flood protection to Montz.
“I’ve been elected to represent all the people,” Cochran said.
While Fields-Pierre, no party, said she hasn’t held public office, she brings considerable experience working in government in the parish. She is a lifelong resident of the parish who chairs the Paul Maillard Community Development Corp. that has gotten $9.2 million in funding and a Bayer (formerly Monsanto) commitment for Linear Park in Luling.
“This work could be done on both sides of the river,” she told the crowd.
What makes you the best candidate for parish president?
Cochran said levees have been his priority and it will remain his goal to bring 100-year flood protection on the West Bank.
“My administration has done a great job,” he said. “We’re moving the parish in the right direction.”
Fields-Pierre said her first-hand experience working in government and volunteering has taught her how to identify genuine needs and address them by involving the people.
“What I bring to the parish is a fresh voice,” she said. “It’s understanding we all can do our part.”
Jewell said he is the only opponent with experience building relationships on the federal, state and local levels.
“I bring a sense of urgency with getting things done,” he said.
What are the parish’s three most pressing issues?
Fields-Pierre said levees, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and job creation.
Jewell said flood protection, especially in Des Allemands, drainage and infrastructure.
Cochran said flood protection, economic development and controlled growth by getting more housing.
Things you’d do to accelerate growth?
Jewell said improving infrastructure, such as upgrading the sewer system to accommodate the parish’s growth, and workforce development.
Fields-Pierre said the parish needs a small business development center and should work with South Central Louisiana Technical College to provide job training.
Cochran said job creation and improving recreation, which he intends to work on his next four years in office if elected
How would you manage growth?
“We need smart growth,” Jewell replied.
Many people are envious of the parish’s great school system and low crime rate, he said. Expansion should be assessed but not with spot zoning.
Cochran said he’s worked hard in the last four years to promote growth.
“It’s coming,” he said. “But we need to control it. We have a lot of interest in development.”
Fields-Pierre said the parish’s 2030 plan outlines best practices on growth, as well as the need to improve infrastructure like drainage to facilitate growth.
Approach to flood protection
Cochran said he made physical progress on improving levees for Hurricane Barry, as well as worked on lower flood insurance rates and hurricane protection.
“We are working toward a five-year fix,” he said.
Jewell said he also would work toward lowering flood insurance rates. In the next two weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a five-year flood insurance plan.
Fields-Pierre agreed with lower insurance rates and improving flood protection.
“We need to keep all this moving,” she said.
Jewell pledged to serve with honor and integrity, to be transparent and ensure the government serves the people.
Fields-Pierre said what separates her from her opponents is her first-hand experience working with people and in government.
“I will continue to listen to all of the concerns of the people of this parish,” she said. “I will continue to fight for every citizen.”
Cochran said he would continue to be a good steward of the people’s money and continue working on levees, 100-year hurricane protection, building better roads and infrastructure.