DENHAM SPRINGS — Candidates for Livingston Parish president, sheriff and assessor on Wednesday laid out their platforms — but largely refrained from openly disagreeing with each other — before an audience of several hundred businessmen and women.
The 10 candidates — three for assessor, four for sheriff and three for parish president — were given two minutes each to respond to randomly drawn questions, and a minute to respond to their opponents’ answers during the event hosted by the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce.
Parish President Mike Grimmer, who has clashed with the Parish Council over a number of issues, refused to back down when asked a question about the key to working with the council.
“If we are all doing what’s right, we will get along,” Grimmer replied. “It does not mean that we hate each other or that we can’t get anything done.”
Grimmer’s challengers asserted they would, if elected, bring a different tone to their relationships with the council.
“Including the council members in on decisions” is one thing Layton Ricks said he would do. “You have to extend the hand and communicate.”
The third candidate in the race, Donald Burgess, suggested, “The key to disagreement is discussion.”
The issue came up again during the candidates’ closing remarks.
“I will apologize to no one,” Grimmer said. “I need to be your parish president for the next four years.”
“This is one parish, and one parish only,” Ricks said. “It’s not a lower, east or west,” he added, referring to geographic divisions sometimes reflected in Livingston Parish politics.
The three candidates also stressed the need for continuing the parish’s economic growth.
“A theme park,” Burgess replied to a question about businesses or industries he would try to bring to the parish, if elected. “And something along the lines of a Bass Pro shop like we have in Denham,” he said.
Ricks said he would favor the placement of a distribution center along Interstate 12 or U.S. 190.
Grimmer said the parish had done a feasibility study on a theme park, and he thought it was a “rational” idea.
Three of the four candidates for sheriff stressed their long experience in law enforcement.
“I have devoted my life to the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office,” said Jason Ard. “I am also a Christian, a father and a friend.”
A late entrant into the race, Pete Aranyosi, complimented Ard on his qualifications, but said the parish would have to get away from “horse and buggy ways” to contend with rapid growth.
Aranyosi later drew titters from the crowd when he asked the other candidates to pledge to arrest District Attorney Scott Perrilloux and Sheriff Willie Graves for “malfeasance” and for putting the parish in a “terrible situation with lawyers.”
Sheriff’s candidate and retired Baton Rouge police Officer H.B. “Cookie” Billingsly said he had been in shootings in his more than 35 years as a police officer.
He emphasized the need for more patrols to keep violence levels down.
“We want to make sure (Livingston Parish) doesn’t turn into a shooting gallery,” he said.
“I started as a Wildlife and Fisheries agent and then went to the State Police, where I achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel,” Mickey McMorris said.
Ard and McMorris listed illegal trafficking in drugs as the biggest crime problem facing the parish.
The two challengers to Assessor Jeff Taylor — Corey Delahoussaye and Richard Eppinett — promised to be more accessible than Taylor to Livingston Parish residents.
All three said they would continue the Assess the Need program aimed at lowering millages and assessments.