With just a dozen votes separating them in the primary, the two finalists for the Livingston Parish Council’s Watson-area seat are facing a tough runoff election Saturday.
Jim Norred, the one-term incumbent, is squaring off against challenger Garry “Frog” Talbert in the race for the District 2 seat. Both men are Republicans.
District 2 is the last undecided seat on the council, after contested elections for the other eight seats were all settled during the Oct. 24 primary.
It is also the last chance for an incumbent council member to return to office. The five others who tried were ousted by overwhelming margins last month, even in districts with three candidates on the ballot.
Talbert led the District 2 race with 42 percent of the 3,381 votes cast, while Norred polled at 41 percent. Darla Steagall came in third with 17 percent.
Norred, 59, declined to be interviewed for this story but previously said he is seeking a second term to help move the parish forward.
Norred, who works for General Dynamics Information Technology, has said his focus would be on implementation of the parish’s adopted master plan, working for better roads and construction prioritization, and supporting continued economic development in the fast-growing parish.
Norred said he has taken on “tough battles most politicians tend to side-step” during his first term and would continue to “stand in the gap” for his community.
One battle that has raised his profile over the past two years is the adoption of the parish’s first set of mining regulations — a cause Norred championed after learning Southern Aggregates will locate a gravel pit operation next to his subdivision.
The new ordinance has come under fire from small-time dirt haulers and larger mining operators alike, who say the rules are overly burdensome and will drive up the cost of doing business in Livingston.
Talbert, 53, owner of a fuel distributor and truck stop, said the new regulations are “fine” overall but need some tweaking, particularly in the section that limits hours of operation.
Restricting the hours trucks can load gravel at the site will mean more trucks are required to haul the same amount each day, Talbert said.
It also means those trucks are more likely to be on the road during peak traffic hours, he said.
“Forcing loaded trucks into a school zone when children are trying to get to school won’t lead to an accident. It will lead to a tragedy,” Talbert said. “I just think they didn’t look at all the consequences of the ordinance.”
If elected, Talbert said, he plans to focus on zoning commercial corridors like La. 16 through Watson to help guide future growth, removing the Department of Public Works’ expenses from the parish’s road sales tax fund and ensuring that a neutral engineer sets the parish’s road construction priorities.
Talbert said he was encouraged by the results of the primary.
“The incumbent in Watson ran second with 58.5 percent of the people voting against him,” Talbert said of Norred. “That’s a clear message. People want change.”
Talbert said his focus in the final weeks has been knocking on the doors of likely voters and making sure they go to the polls.
“I got a list of everyone who voted. We’re going to hunt where the ducks are,” he said. “The message hasn’t changed. I don’t think what people want has changed. I think people’s minds are made up, and it’s just a matter of getting them to vote.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.