The longtime director of Lafayette Utilities System and LUS Fiber has announced plans to retire before the end of the year.
Terry Huval, who has helmed the utilities system for 23 years, announced his impending retirement Monday to “to provide adequate time” for Mayor-President Joel Robideaux’s administration to transition to new leadership, he said in a news release.
“While it’s never easy to say goodbye, I’m confident in the strength of (LUS and LUS Fiber), and more importantly, the strength of the people left to continue this good work,” Huval said in the release.
An administration spokeswoman, Cydra Wingerter, said Huval will serve for the majority if not the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends Oct. 31. Huval’s tenure as director of the 120-year-old utilities system is the longest in its history, according to the news release.
Huval is also an accomplished musician, dubbed “one of Cajun music’s finest fiddlers and songwriters” by the Louisiana Folklife Center at Northwestern State University.
Huval and his brother Tony Huval formed the popular Jambalaya Cajun Band more than four decades ago. The band remains one of the leaders of the genre, with an April 29 performance scheduled at the New Orleans jazz festival.
“I have always been a little bit of awe by the fact that he works on both sides of the brain,” City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conque said.
As a municipal administrator, Terry Huval will be remembered for overseeing installation of fiber optic ring around Lafayette around the turn of the last century and for helping to spearhead creation of a municipally owned telecommunications company.
The company, LUS Fiber, operates one of 55 municipal fiber-to-the-home networks in the United States, according to the Institute for Local Self Reliance.
In a 2012 report, the institute called Lafayette “home to the longest-running, most acrimonious community broadband battle in the nation,” a reference to the drawn-out legal and public relations fights with BellSouth and Cox the city-parish had to overcome to implement the fiber system.
LUS Fiber, now in its ninth year of operation, announced in December that it will expand beyond Lafayette city limits, to subdivisions in Youngsville and Broussard.
Former Mayor-President Joey Durel, whose administration pushed the in-home service, said he probably would not have taken on the private providers if not for his trust in Huval to see the project through to completion.
“That’s a big move for a new politician to make, to go battle with multimillion-dollar companies. If you don’t have the team behind you, you would never consider doing something like that,” Durel said. “I’ve often wondered over the years, what if I had not known Terry before I got into office.”
More recently, Councilwoman Nanette Cook said Huval was instrumental in helping to improve water quality in the unincorporated Shenandoah neighborhood.
“These residents had been having horrible water for several years,” Cook wrote in an email.
Durel said Robideaux could have a difficult time finding a replacement with the experience necessary to run a utilities system alongside a telecommunications network.
“I don’t think you’re going to fill that position with one person,” Durel said. “It may take two people to fill those shoes.”