Each day now, outgoing Jefferson Parish President John Young is told he should take a long trip out of town after he leaves office Wednesday.
The thought of a long vacation tempts him, but it’s not really feasible with two of his sons still in college and another in high school, Young said during a recent interview.
Instead, Young, a lawyer, has been pondering a job as a governmental affairs and community relations adviser for a corporation or law firm, ideally one that involves itself with coastal protection and restoration or other issues that he considers vital to Louisiana.
He also has been thinking about whether to campaign for another political office — such as the U.S. Senate seat that fellow Republican David Vitter doesn’t plan to defend in November — after falling short in his bid for lieutenant governor in October.
Or maybe both, at least in the short term.
“It’s not an either-or path. They can both work together and complement each other,” Young, 58, said about private-sector employment opportunities he declined to specify and the possibility of a high-profile race he emphasized he hadn’t made his mind up on, though his supporters hope he enters.
“I will remain involved in public matters,” he added. “It’s just — in what capacity? I’m not sure yet.”
If Young does opt to run as a candidate again, whether locally or statewide, raising money may not be as easy as when he held a high-profile office, according to political observers. He chose to pass up seeking another term as parish president, a race he likely would have won, to take the gamble of a statewide race.
His ability to raise money will be crucial if he aspires to resurrect his political career.
The $1.9 million Young had in his war chest ahead of the Oct. 24 lieutenant governor’s primary dwindled to less than $35,000 after he finished third in the four-way race, campaign finance filings showed.
Nonetheless, the record Young compiled in five years as Jefferson Parish’s president should give him a viable shot against any opponent he might draw in the future, some political observers said.
The initiative Young usually cites as his proudest accomplishment as Jefferson’s leader was creation of the parish Inspector General’s Office, an agency meant to identify and prevent corruption, waste and fraud while fostering efficiency and transparency in government operations.
Young, a former Parish Council member, lobbied for an Inspector General’s Office in the immediate aftermath of a corruption scandal that in 2010 led to the resignation of Parish President Aaron Broussard, who’s now serving time in federal prison for wire fraud, theft and conspiracy.
After he won a special race in 2010 to finish out Broussard’s unexpired term and then was re-elected without opposition in 2011 to a full four-year term, Young saw Jefferson voters side with him and approve creation of an office many hoped would begin rehabilitating the parish’s tarnished reputation.
And it won’t hurt him to remind voters of that achievement if he’s ever on the campaign trail again, Louisiana politics pundit Jeremy Alford said.
“This guy has a good story to tell, of being this reformer, this champion of ethics for a parish that sorely needed it when he came into office,” said Alford, of LaPolitics.com.
Further, Alford said, Young’s numbers when he ran for lieutenant governor shouldn’t discourage him. He won his home parish during the primary by 16 percentage points, and he missed qualifying for the Nov. 21 runoff by a little more than 1 percent statewide.
The candidate who edged Young for the second spot in the runoff — fellow Republican Billy Nungesser — ultimately trounced the primary leader, Democrat Kip Holden, to win election.
Young, wincing, said, “That race was all about making the runoff,” suggesting that he too would have easily defeated Holden in the runoff.
Jefferson Business Council Executive Director Tony Ligi, a former state representative for a district including parts of Metairie and Kenner, echoed Alford’s views.
When discussing his presidency, Young frequently points to businesses that the parish managed to either attract or retain. One of his favorite stories concerns how Smoothie King CEO Wan Kim wanted to move his headquarters from Covington to Dallas or Atlanta but then chose to relocate to Metairie in 2012 after Young intervened, alongside other local leaders eager to keep the company, which was founded in Kenner, in the New Orleans area.
Another success story Young enjoys sharing involves the Starr Textile commercial laundry service’s decision in 2013 to move from New Orleans into a facility in Elmwood because water and sewerage rates were more affordable. Making the parish’s gain more impressive was that Starr — whose clients include hotels, restaurants and condominium complexes — reportedly was under a lot of pressure by clients in New Orleans to stay put.
Ligi said neither of those situations, nor other similar ones, would have worked out to Jefferson’s favor if the parish’s reputation remained the same as it was after the Broussard scandal.
“John’s legacy will be that he brought stability to Jefferson Parish government,” Ligi said. “And that helped because people don’t want to locate their businesses where they feel there are issues with governmental ethics.”
Young, for his part, said it saddens him that other projects proposed during his tenure won’t be completed until well after his successor, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, is sworn in as parish president.
One example is an 1,800-acre community for up to 30,000 residents that the architects of Lafayette’s Village of River Ranch are considering building over the next two decades on the Fairfield tract, an area of undeveloped land near the west bank end of the Huey P. Long Bridge.
Yet Young is proud of the shape Jefferson is in as he hands over the reins to Yenni, in part because the parish’s government was due to finish 2015 a hefty $185 million in the black.
“I’ll miss being able to serve the citizens as president of Jefferson Parish, but I’m going to embrace change,” Young said. “I’m going to look forward into the future and not look back.”