ST. FRANCISVILLE — Voters will decide Nov. 21 whether a Republican or Democrat will hold the District B seat on the West Feliciana Parish Council.
Otis Wilson, a Democrat, and John C. Thompson Jr., a Republican, are vying for the District B seat in the runoff. In the Oct. 24 primary, Thompson led with 402 votes, or 45 percent of the vote, with Wilson coming in second with 350 votes, or 39 percent of the vote.
Democrat John Kean earned only 142 votes, or 16 percent of the vote.
Incumbents Melvin Young in District A, Mel Percy in District C and newcomer Bill May in District D each won their respective races. They will join Sydney Picou-Walker, the first at-large representative under the home rule charter, who also won.
During the Oct. 24 election, the council changed from seven representative districts to four districts and one at-large seat mandated by the home rule charter.
The seven seats are a remnant of the Police Jury, which over the past two years has made the move to a Parish Council as the legislative branch and a parish president as the executive.
Wilson, who has served on the council — as well as on the Police Jury — for 18 years, said several pressing issues are facing District B and the parish that must be addressed.
“Road conditions and housing need to be looked at,” said Wilson, a retired school bus driver. “There also needs to be a completion of the sewerage and water system work that wasn’t finished. There are also some drainage problems in Hardwood that need to be looked at.
“We also need housing that’s more affordable for the people — these are some of the things that have been mentioned to me,” Wilson said.
The parish’s issues with unsightly brown water, inadequate sewerage and poor drainage are perhaps too complex for the parish staff to handle, he said, and suggested experts or specialists need to be brought in to diagnose and fix the problems.
Thompson, a political newcomer, agreed with Wilson that more affordable housing is needed in the parish. He also said that infrastructure around the parish needs to be improved, and funding should be provided by attracting new businesses to the parish.
“Bringing new businesses won’t change the nature of the parish,” said Thompson, a pastor and bricklayer. “We can incorporate growth and maintain the natural beauty of the parish. Managing the growth is important so we don’t grow too fast like Zachary.”
But Thompson said tax revenues are falling and the parish is going to have to start finding new revenue sources.
“We can’t keep putting the tax burden on the people,” he said.
He said areas like Hardwood, Independence and Wakefield, along with some of outlying areas, have been neglected, and the infrastructure needs to be considered.
Thompson also said the parish has plenty going for it to attract new businesses and new residents, including one of Louisiana’s top-rated school districts.
“We need to get folks seated who can work together,” Thompson said. “We also need new ideas and a new frame of mind to get a council working that can move this parish forward.”