Council chairmanship changes hands _lowres

Randy Clouatre

Ascension Parish Councilman Dempsey Lambert has replaced Councilman Randy Clouatre as chairman of the board that oversees East Ascension drainage maintenance and improvements.

Clouatre, who has been chairman since he started his first term on the council in 2008, stepped down Tuesday, as he had promised after the council made him chairman of the full council Aug. 7.

That job opened up after Councilman Chris Loar announced in late July he was running for parish president in fall 2015 and would surrender the council chairman’s gavel to devote time to his campaign, setting in motion the changes in chairmanships.

Lambert, who is in his third term on the Parish Council and has been drainage board vice chairman while Clouatre was chairman, was elected to the chairman’s post without opposition Tuesday.

“Mr. Lambert, you are the chair. Please take this seat,” Clouatre said after the vote.

Clouatre, a St. Amant resident who works for Renewable Energy Group at the Dynamic Fuels plant in Geismar, switched the nameplates to show that Lambert was now in the chairman’s seat.

“I’ll be glad to work with everyone and the administration,” said Lambert, who lives in Galvez and, according to state disclosure forms, works as a senior service technician with Atmos Energy.

“I really look forward to our challenges here.”

The drainage board, which is made up of 10 of the 11 council members who represent East Ascension, also elected Councilman Benny Johnson as vice-chairman without opposition. Johnson is also vice-chairman of the full council.

The East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District Board of Commissioners oversees a $17 million budget and for the past several years also has been spending down $60 million in onetime proceeds from a 40-year bond issue dating from 2007.

The bonds are paying for major capital projects, such as the nearly $16 million Henderson Bayou floodgate and pumps designed to halt backwater flooding from the Amite River into the northeast corner of the parish.

Lambert had advocated for many years for the floodgate and pumps.

The board learned shortly after Lambert was elected chairman Tuesday that the project is nearly completed.

Lambert is also chairman of the council Transportation Committee and said after the drainage meeting Tuesday that he would like to stay as chairman or as a member on the committee but said it would be up to Clouatre.

Clouatre declined comment Tuesday on the Transportation Committee chairmanship.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.