ST. FRANCISVILLE — Parish Council member Merrick R. “Ricky” Lambert Sr. is challenging incumbent Kevin Couhig for West Feliciana Parish president after both candidates qualified Tuesday for the Oct. 24 primary.
Lambert, who had announced Monday he wasn’t going to run for any office during this election cycle, said he changed his mind after calls from supporters encouraging him to run against Couhig.
Couhig, a 63-year-old Republican, was elected the parish’s first president in November of 2013 after West Feliciana voters approved a switch to a home rule charter government from a police jury system in 2012. He defeated fellow Republican and former state representative Tom McVea with nearly 59 percent of the vote in the runoff.
Couhig and Lambert are both from the business world: Couhig served as the state’s economic development director and worked in business finance; Lambert’s family has been in trucking and he owns the Border Imports store in St. Francisville.
And both have been supporters of the parish president/council form of government, which has been under attack. On Monday, the parish council will decide whether to place on the ballot a proposal to revoke the home rule charter and return to the police jury system.
Lambert, a 57-year-old Democrat, was first elected to the parish council in 2011 after previously serving on the Planning and Zoning commission since 2005. He said his major difference with Couhig is management style.
“I feel to accomplish good things, especially in spending public money, support needs to be generated by open communication, especially by listening and incorporating others’ views, as well as addressing others’ concerns,” Lambert said.
He said the dissension within the parish’s government, particularly between the administration and the council, needs to be addressed.
“Everyone is a little bit to blame; no one is blameless, we can all do a better job,” Lambert said. He said he would also work to address the parish’s declining tax base.
Couhig said his administration has brought transparency and increased citizen participation to parish planning and operations. Another accomplishment was “assembling an outstanding group of managers and personnel to conduct the people’s business in a less costly and more efficient manner. And implementing infrastructure improvements, including roads and parks based on usage, needs and citizen input rather than politics.”
Couhig said he will work toward implementing policies that increase economic activity, including “more housing that young people can afford, and increasing economic activity through support of existing businesses and the attraction of new businesses, and building a consensus on the need for prosperity and growth that benefits all sectors of the population.”
Qualifying ends Thursday. A runoff election, if needed, is scheduled Nov. 21.