In 2017, the pages of the St. Francisville Democrat and Watchman were filled with stories of life in the Felicianas.

We've pulled together a recap of the year as seen through our favorite stories. Here's a rundown of happenings from January to June. Next week's issue will include stories and photos from July to December.


In St. Francisville, Mayor Billey D'Aquilla and the members of the Board of Aldermen took the oath of office on Dec. 29, 2016. D'Aquilla was starting his ninth term as mayor, a January story reported.

The East Feliciana School Board elected Richard Terrell to head the board. He replaced Michael Bradford, who had served as board president for six years.

The West Feliciana Parish Tourism Commission elected Mark Drennan as its new chairman.

The West Feliciana Parish School Board started the year in disagreement over who should serve as its president. With board member Beth Tycer absent, the vote was a tie. Three members, Kelly O'Brien, Amanda McKinney and Kevin Beauchamp, voted for Beauchamp; and three voted for Milton Coats: Sara Wilson-Rogers, Helen Whitfield and Coats.

Beauchamp had served as board president for the past six years. On the advice of school board attorney Sam D'Aquilla, the board voted twice, with the same result both times. After the stalemate, the board agreed to table the election until the next meeting.

Outside politics, a Jan. 26 story highlighted the Olsen family of St. Francisville and their experiences in livestock shows.


A Feb. 9 story interviewed Feliciana students competing in the South Central District Livestock Show on Feb. 2 in Gonzales.

The West Feliciana Parish School Board voted 5-2 at its February meeting to appoint Kevin Beauchamp as its president. 

The 12th annual Clinton Mardi Gras parade rolled Feb. 18 with the theme "Clinton Rising ... Stronger Together" in support of flood recovery efforts.

Keep West Feliciana Beautiful partnered with the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office and Public Works Department to clean illegal dumpsites throughout the parish. The January cleanup campaign involved a crew of inmates from the West Feliciana jail and parish workers. A large waste receptacle was donated by Waste Management, and the use of a track hoe was donated by the parish.


The Audubon Hills neighborhood in St. Francisville held its inaugural Mardi Gras parade in February.

West Feliciana Parish schools Superintendent Hollis Milton was named president of the Louisiana Association of State Superintendents, filling the void created when Brian Lejeune retired in December 2016.


A March 9 story highlighted efforts to restore a caboose in St. Francisville. The orange caboose was purchased by the town in 1995 and moved to its current location through a donation from Richard Holcomb, who was instrumental in the push to recognize the historical significance of the West Feliciana Parish Railroad.

The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury decided at its March 14 meeting to allow the parish manager to use her vacation time until she retired in April, rather than firing her for allegedly sending a racially derogatory text message about another employee. Barbara "Babs" Vail retired effective April 8. Police jurors held a 30-minute closed-door meeting with the employee to hash over the issue. At their next meeting, East Feliciana police jurors decided not to appoint an interim parish manager while it sought a replacement for Vail.

Jackson hosted the 52nd annual Jackson Assembly in March, with more than 20 vendors displaying their antique and collectible wares.


April 6 was declared Clara O. Martin Day in St. Francisville. The 93-year-old was honored for her years of volunteer work with the West Feliciana Food Pantry.


The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury hired a former Baton Rouge government employee as its parish manager in May to succeed a longtime jury employee who held the post for a little more than a year. Personnel Committee Chairman Ed Brooks recommended Sonya Crowe for the job, which is the top administrative position for the parish's nine-member governing body.

Brooks said the committee interviewed five applicants over two days the week before, and jury President Louis Kent said other jurors sat in on the interviews.

Crowe succeeds Barbara "Babs" Vail, who resigned in March after she allegedly sent a text message to another jury employee that used a racially derogatory term about a former jury secretary.

Feliciana high schools held graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2017.


Trying to work out an election mix-up, the West Feliciana Parish School Board deadlocked during its June meeting on appointing a second interim member to the District 3 seat once held by Jimmy White. The appointment eventually was made by Gov. John Bel Edwards after the board split 3-3 between two people seeking the interim appointment.

White died Sept. 22, 2016, when he was struck by a car while walking along Solitude Road near his home, and the board appointed his sister, Helen Whitfield, in October to fill the seat until an election could be held.

Whitfield, however, did not qualify in January to run in the special election that was set for March 25, and Jerry Landrum qualified without opposition to win the seat.

Landrum later faced a challenge because he does not live in the district, and he resigned June 6, the day before his challenge was to go before a court, District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla said.

The board did agree to set a March 24, 2018, special election to allow voters to choose someone to finish the remainder of White's term, which ends Dec. 31, 2018. To keep the seat for another four years, the March winner will have to run again, and win, in the regular fall 2018 elections.