GONZALES — Longtime Gonzales City Councilman Kenny Matassa promised Wednesday to put people over politics, hold the line on new taxes and get government out of the way of economic growth if he is elected Ascension Parish president this fall.
Matassa, 65, a Republican, has been mulling a run to replace four-term Parish President Tommy Martinez since at least the middle of last year. He made the announcement Wednesday evening to a packed room at Sno’s restaurant in Gonzales.
Matassa, who has worked for parish government for 22 years, said the parish can be run on the money it has, or possibly less.
“We need more taxpayers, not more taxes, more people working who are simply paying the taxes currently on the books,” said Matassa, director of the parish health unit and a public works official.
“In short, we must continue our aggressive approach to economic development and bring new jobs to Ascension Parish. Government can be made to work with the money it has and maybe even a little less.”
The five-term councilman was registered as a Democrat in 1979. He switched to no party affiliation on June 19 and then joined the Republican Party about six months later on Dec. 8, according to the Ascension Parish registrar of voters.
Martinez, who was at Matassa’s announcement along with parish councilmen and employees, has said he is not seeking re-election in the Oct. 24 primary and is bowing out of politics.
Matassa’s no-taxes stance puts him in contrast with the track record of his current boss and Loar, who had both pushed a half-cent sales tax for roads that voters soundly rejected in the fall of 2012. But the position will set up Matassa to address how the parish will deal with its growing infrastructure woes without the new tax revenues that other parish leaders have claimed are needed.
Most recently on the Gonzales City Council, Matassa stood with the council minority and Mayor Barney Arceneaux against a three-man council voting bloc that roiled Gonzales politics for nearly two years.
After a bruising political fight, the mayor, Matassa and their allies prevailed as City Councilmen Gary Lacombe and Timmy Vessel were targeted for recall last year. Lacombe resigned before the recall election. The voters ousted Vessel.
Matassa said he was waiting to make his announcement until after those issues on the council were settled.
With backing from Arceneaux, who was on hand Wednesday along with City Police Chief Sherman Jackson, Matassa is expected to bring support from Gonzales and also rely on long-standing ties to Donaldsonville to win the parishwide election.
“I’m going to give it my best shot to win this thing because I believe I can, and I wouldn’t be in it if I didn’t think I would win,” Matassa said.
The jockeying between Loar and Matassa is already beginning. Earlier Wednesday, Loar’s campaign put out a statement that he had raised $170,050 last year and had $145,724 on hand for the start of 2015.
Editor’s note: This story was changed Feb. 5, 2015, to reflect that Matassa is a Republican. He registered as a Democrat in 1979. He switched to no party affiliation on June 19 but then joined the Republican Party on Dec. 8, according to the Ascension Parish registrar of voters.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.