Stoute's Honor: Voters, it is election time again here in St. Mary Parish
By: GEOFFREY STOUTE
For politicians, it’s time to be seen and heard. For the public who wants no part of it, now is the time to run and hide.
If the signs haven’t tipped you off, St. Mary Parish is in the middle of a big election season.
For the politicians, that means time to talk to anyone and everyone who will listen to them, extending a handshake to the gentlemen and a peck on the cheek to the ladies. Suddenly those who have hardly known you want to strike up a conversation with you.
They want to know your concerns and they offer their plans to help you, maybe if they're bold enough, even promise you.
Ahh, yes, it’s all part of the lovely game called politics.
If that’s your thing, by all means, stay and enjoy the show.
If not, find the nearest escape route and hide under a rock for at least the next month. But if you’re a St. Mary Parish resident, don’t forget to make a quick dash to the polls during early voting (Oct. 8-15) or on election day, Oct. 22, to vote on whatever of the following applies to you: state representative, state senator, sheriff, parish president, parish councilman, and justice of the peace in Ward 4 and constable/justice of the peace in Ward 5.
Don’t forget about those state elections for secretary of state, agriculture and forestry commissioner, insurance commissioner, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education District 3 representative and governor and lieutenant governor, either.
Locally, things already have begun to get a little bit testy in the sheriff’s race, especially during Tuesday’s forum at the Atchafalaya at Idlewide Club House.
After Sheriff Mark Hebert, who is holding the position in the interim, touted improvements in the sheriff’s department’s technology through the years and how the department now can share information on individuals with other agencies, one of his opponents, Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle, came to the podium singing another tune.
“Some of things that the … appointed sheriff just said, I know nothing about,” LaSalle told the audience. “We do not communicate, the computer systems do not blend, they do not share the information. As your sheriff, the very first thing I’m going to do is make all chiefs of police part of my active staff. We will communicate with them everything that occurs in the parish, because through communication, we can change things.”
Let the sparring, begin!
Things continued later when candidate Jack Smith fired his shots at Hebert.
First, Smith took issue with the sheriff’s department’s technology in its patrol units, which he said was inferior to the technology in the patrol units of police units at individual municipalities.
“Mark, you stated this morning that technology was only as good as those who use it,” Smith said. “So I mean are you saying that every police officer who works for our city police departments are better at using technology than our deputies at our sheriff’s office? I don’t agree. Surely, Mark, you will not argue that the citizens of our unincorporated areas are not just (as) important enough to be afforded the same protections that we afford in the incorporated towns and cities? This needs to be corrected and as your sheriff, I will do that.”
The sheriff, who touted that he runs a department with about a $13 million budget, took one on the proverbial chin when Smith enlightened the audience about the sheriff’s department’s borrowing of funds, which was advertised in a public notice recently.
“Mark, I saw where you just borrowed funds to get you through the rest of the year until you get your ad valorem tax collections,” Smith said. “We would hope in the future this practice may be negated.”
With a month remaining until the elections and forums for state representative and senate candidates as well as parish councilmen and parish president candidates all on tap, more sparring is sure to follow.
It’s not a bad thing, though, as long as what the candidates say is not libelous. It is just part of the life of a politician, or to steal a phrase from Insurance Commisioner candidate Jim Donelan’s campaign commercial, “That’s just how he rolls.”