Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse is through talking about the unconventional way he announced he’d run for the parish presidency this fall.
Now that he has officially kicked off his campaign for the Oct. 24 primary, he’s focusing squarely on why he’s fit to become Jefferson Parish’s next chief executive — talk that invariably touches upon his experience administering a multimillion-dollar budget and his three terms on the council.
The 75-year-old Lagasse launched his campaign Wednesday night at The Crossing in Kenner, a city where his only announced opponent for the presidency — Mike Yenni — is mayor.
Until early this month, many were under the impression that Lagasse was going to run for re-election to his at-large council seat.
But then a Facebook page associated with Lagasse published a message late on March 6, a Friday, saying that he was running for president. Lagasse followed up two days later by discussing his plans at an afternoon dance he hosts every spring in Westwego.
The low-key manner in which Lagasse unveiled his candidacy prompted some observers to ask whether he had entered the race without completely thinking it through, especially when compared with Yenni.
Before he finally announced on March 18, Yenni, 38, let speculation about whether he’d run for president build for more than seven months, ever since John Young announced he would not seek another term.
Then, when he at last confirmed he was a candidate, he did so with a commercial that aired during local television newscasts just as a standing-room-only crowd of supporters began arriving at a ballroom for his campaign kickoff.
It was all a sharp contrast to Lagasse’s 23-word Facebook post.
But Lagasse has not wavered from his stance that, after careful consideration, he opted to run for parish president because he’s certain his résumé helps make him the best fit for the job.
As the superintendent of the Jefferson Parish public school system from 1994 to 2003, he oversaw 2,000 employees, 45,000 students and an annual budget of $500 million. Such duties are comparable to those of parish president, and Lagasse said he can carry out the president’s job in a way that would permit Jefferson to progress in all areas.
“I just happened to get in first,” he said in response to critics of his timing. “That’s it.”
Lagasse also maintains that his decade as a councilman would help him cooperate with the parish’s lawmaking body more effectively than some other presidents have.
Fellow at-large Councilman Chris Roberts on Wednesday likened Lagasse to a sports coach skilled in team-building. “He is known for surrounding himself with ... people capable of making things happen,” Roberts said. “Elton ... will ... attract the talent needed to move the parish forward.”