Jefferson Parish Councilman Ricky Templet has drawn two challengers in the race to represent District 1, each with a different approach to campaigning for the seat.
Patrick Pierson, a former chairman of the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority’s board, is running directly at the incumbent, while political newcomer Scott Grindstaff touts a technocratic approach focused on solving the district’s nagging problems, chiefly traffic congestion.
Templet, meanwhile, says his track record on the council speaks for itself, and he points to a number of crime-prevention, economic development and flood-protection projects underway or completed in the district, which includes Terrytown, Gretna and the southernmost reaches of unincorporated West Jefferson.
The primary is Oct. 24.
Templet is a Republican and Pierson a Democrat. Grindstaff does not have a party affiliation.
Templet, 52, a first-term councilman and former state legislator, said he will continue to focus on ways to make West Jefferson more livable and attractive to young professionals, noting his involvement in commissioning the West Bank Revival economic development study.
He pointed to the Bellemeade Walking Trail and Serenity Park in Gretna, a bike trail along the Lafitte-Larose highway and the upcoming ribbon-cutting for a 2,000-foot-long boardwalk in Parc des Familles.
Templet said he supported the $61 million Bayou Dupont-Mississippi River sediment diversion project and just helped get 20 crime cameras installed in Terrytown. Better lighting along Belle Chasse highway is next, he said, and he’s working with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office to bring license-plate recognition cameras to the district.
“I’m very much boots on the ground,” he said. “I’m involved day-to-day. I’ve had my feet on the ground and touched each of these projects personally.”
Pierson, however, doesn’t mince words when asked why he’s running.
“Ricky Templet has not done the citizens of our parish and our district a good service,” the 64-year-old from Gretna said. “He’s basically a yes-man for (Division A at-large Councilman) Chris Roberts. In the four years that I’ve been paying attention to the council meetings, I can’t remember a time where he voted against Chris Roberts.”
Templet said the suggestion he’s somehow subservient to Roberts is absurd. He said the work he’s done in concert with Roberts has always been for the betterment of the district.
Pierson, who ran unsuccessfully last year for constable, touted his independence: “I’m completely independent. I’m not beholden to any contractors, any politicians, engineers, special interest groups.”
Pierson said he wants to cut down on the number of no-bid parish contracts, particularly those that are renewed year after year to the same firms. He supports streamlining the parish’s permitting process and pursuing flood control projects in Terrytown. He said seafood from the southern part of the district should be more heavily promoted throughout the rest of the parish and beyond.
Pierson said he was motivated to run for public office after he, other Housing Authority board members and the former director were ousted in 2012 and 2013 by Parish President John Young over allegations of mismanagement and poor oversight.
Pierson said his stint at the Housing Authority overlapped with the period covered by a scathing federal audit by only a matter of weeks and that he and the others were treated unfairly.
He promised to serve for only one term if elected and said it’s time for younger people to get involved in local politics.
He could, to some extent, be talking about his other opponent, the 38-year-old Grindstaff.
Grindstaff, a native of Utah who works at Mothe Life Insurance in Gretna, said he wants to focus on getting results on day-to-day issues of traffic congestion, street repair and drainage.
“Too often we just rest on our laurels and say someone else is going to take care of it, and that’s what motivated me to get involved in this election,” he said.
Grindstaff said reducing traffic congestion along Manhattan and Lapalco boulevards, not to mention Veterans Memorial Boulevard across the river, should be a greater priority. He said the timing of the lights should be recalibrated and that he would push to have more proceeds from the state gasoline tax redirected to use on local roads.
These problems, he said, are part of the broader issue of the parish not keeping up with growth as well as it should.
While he has nothing negative to say about the incumbent, Grindstaff said things can be better than the status quo. “I just think it’s been ho-hum, and some of that is government,” he said. “I think the opportunity to make a more visible impact is available.”
To save money, he said, the parish should trim its workforce through attrition by 5 percent, from 3,236 to 3,074, over the next eight years, bringing it to the 2007 level.
Grindstaff, a former Boy Scout, is a major proponent of the Boy Scouts of America and said the parish should work more closely with that organization to give young people in the parish more things to do.
Grindstaff has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Ottawa University and a certificate in international relations. He worked on a congressional campaign in Utah in the late 1990s and has a father who is a longtime city and county manager in Georgia — two things that he said have given him a taste for politics and public policy.
Early voting begins Saturday.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.