Kevin Couhig, a first-time politician, will become West Feliciana’s first parish president.

Couhig, a businessman, defeated Tom McVea, who served more than two decades in public office, with 59 percent of the vote, according to final but unofficial results Saturday from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office.

Both are Republicans.

Couhig will be sworn into office within 10 days from Saturday’s election.

Voter turnout was 43 percent of the 7,491 people eligible to vote in this election.

Couhig is the CEO of Source Capital Corp.

McVea is a former state representative and West Feliciana police juror.

“I think the work starts now,” Couhig said Saturday after learning he won.

“I’ve never run for office before. It was fun. But the people voted for change. The gates of West Feliciana Parish are now open. We want people, we want new businesses, we want everything,” Couhig said.

McVea was philosophical about his loss. “You either get your message out or you don’t,” he said. “It is what it is. It was fun, and I wish Kevin the best. I really do. There’s nothing good about losing, but that’s life.”

The parish president position was created when voters last November approved a home-rule charter form of government.

The charter also calls for four single-member council districts and one at-large council member, rather than seven police jurors.

Couhig and McVea agreed that economic development is one of the biggest issues facing parish residents, but the two disagreed about the depth of the problem.

Couhig said the parish has been plagued with a vocal minority who have said in the past that the parish is not ready for economic and residential growth.

Couhig said positive growth can be achieved with the type of growth, often called “smart growth,” that can keep the parish’s scenic beauty intact.

One big message Couhig said he wants to send to the development community is that West Feliciana Parish is ready to build homes young people can afford.

Another key difference between the two, Couhig said, is that he always was an advocate for the new form of government.

McVea said he has never opposed the newly created home rule charter, but he had never endorsed it either.

Both candidates have said it would be a good idea to send the home rule charter back to voters for an amendment to keep the seven districts in place.

The seven-member Police Jury will become the Parish Council once the parish president takes office.

The seven jurors will be allowed to serve out their terms, but the Parish Council will have to adopt a plan dividing the parish into four single-member council districts by 2015, with the fifth council member serving at large.

The candidates said the seven districts represent the parish in a fair and racially balanced way.

The parish population is 67 percent white and 33 percent black.