St. Tammany Parish voters will decide next year whether to limit Parish Council members to three terms beginning in 2020; even if the measure passes, it will be 2032 before the first incumbents are barred from running.
But the council is guaranteed to see some new faces next year, even without term limits.
Michael Lorino was the only candidate to qualify for the District 4 seat left open by Reid Falconer’s decision to run for the Legislature. District 5 Councilman Marty Gould chose not to run, and District 13 Councilman Richard Artigue resigned to take a city job in Slidell.
This election also has seen many incumbents draw opposition. While eight walked back into office without a challenge in 2011, only four did so this time: James “Red’’ Thompson, the longest-serving councilman, plus Gene Bellisario, Maureen O’Brien and Jerry Binder.
Several candidates have said they are running in Saturday’s election specifically because they did not want to see someone elected without a challenger.
The activist group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany has pushed that idea. President Rick Franzo said it spent the past eight months encouraging people to run for office to ensure that voters would have options.
Marty Dean, a Republican who is seeking his fourth term, said there is an anti-incumbent climate in the parish, partly fueled by hot-button issues such as fracking. But the 56-year-old nursing home administrator said this is an exciting time to be in a leadership position in St. Tammany.
District 1, which covers Covington and areas south and west of the city, has seen the most growth in terms of population and business, according to Dean, who said he has played a role in managing that growth.
“Everyone wants to move here. For all the naysayers ... we’re doing something right,’’ he said.
Mike Shay, a 63-year-old Republican, is an area manager for an environmental and industrial services business whose work has included being responsible for a large municipal contract in Florida.
He said he got into the race in part because he was unhappy that the Parish Council had rejected putting term limits on the ballot. Even after the council reconsidered, the timing ensured that the current office-holders would not be affected, he said.
Shay also is concerned about how planning decisions are made and communicated to the public.
Chad Honeycutt, a 29-year-old Covington resident whose party affiliation is listed as “other,” is an Army veteran who owns a lawn business. He said he’s running to improve local government and that a change in leadership is necessary to make that happen.
Honeycutt said he wants to prevent fracking in St. Tammany and also sees drainage as a big problem parishwide and in his district, which is the area north of Covington. He blames that in part on too much building by large residential developers.
Frank Dennis Sharp, a Covington Republican who is serving his first term, said he is focusing on infrastructure needs and ensuring there is a balance between commercial and residential development to preserve St. Tammany’s quality of life.
Sharp, who is retired from a 33-year-career with the St. Tammany Parish School Board, said he wants to review zoning regulations and the permitting process and make it easier for families with large acreage to divide property among their children.
Terri Lewis Stevens, a 56-year-old Mandeville architect who has no party affiliation, said she thinks it is important for everyone running for office to have an opponent.
Stevens, who frequently speaks at Parish Council meetings, said the key issues are land use, infrastructure and defending St. Tammany’s zoning ordinance in the legal battle over fracking. Her background in architecture, design and development will be helpful in dealing with those topics, she said.
District 5 covers an area north and east of Mandeville and part of Abita Springs.
Republican Rykert Toledano, a 68-year-old Mandeville lawyer, said he likes solving problems and decided to run when Gould announced he was not seeking re-election.
As Covington’s city attorney for 17 years, Toledano said, he has dealt with just about every facet of local government, from planning and zoning to financial issues and dealing with state and federal agencies. He sees roads, drainage and development as the main issues.
Eric Lowe, a 64-year-old Republican from Bush, is a retired real estate appraiser. The first-time candidate said he entered the race on the final day of qualifying because he didn’t want to see someone re-elected without a challenge.
He said he supports term limits and will oppose new taxes.
District 6 is in the northeastern part of the parish.
Incumbent Richard Tanner, a 73-year-old Republican, also from Bush, is retired from the school system and is the current chairman of the Parish Council. He said he is seeking re-election to finish work on several projects, including the four-laning of the Bogue Falaya bridge.
Among his first-term accomplishments, he points to the construction of the Bush Community Center and disaster shelter and the removal of impact fees from residential construction.
Incumbent Chris Canulette, a Republican, is a native of Slidell who is seeking his fifth term representing the district that covers the Slidell area. He works for Motiva Refinery in Norco.
He serves as co-chairman of the Parish Ambulance Quality Assurance Panel, which oversees the contract with Acadian Ambulance. He did not return calls for an interview, but his biography on the parish website cites a master plan for drainage that alleviated flooding in the Cross Gates and Turtle Creek subdivisions as his key achievement.
Irma Russell, a 52-year-old Slidell resident, is making her first run for elected office. She lists her party as “other.”
Russell, who previously worked as a code enforcement officer for the parish, said she got into the race so voters would have an option. She wants to increase accessibility and transparency and to give the public a greater voice, something she said is lacking at council meetings.
She points to term limits, the battle against fracking and drainage as the most significant issues.
Haley Galloway, 38, who works at a cardiology clinic, is making her first run for office. A Republican, she said her interest in serving on the council was kindled when she was working to get a master’s degree in public administration and during her work as a paramedic.
The main issues in the race are fracking, drainage and term limits, she said. A lifelong resident of the district, which includes parts of Slidell, Lacombe and Pearl River, she said she would bring new ideas to the council.
George M. Haase Sr., a Republican and first-time candidate, said he’s running because of the difficulties the public encounters in trying to find out what is going on in parish government.
Haase, 68, is retired from the Marine Corps and Nunez Community College. He said he wants to bring more openness to parish government and to reduce taxes. He sees flooding and drainage as main issues and wants to ensure that a master plan for development is followed.
Incumbent Steve Stefancik, 76, a Slidell Republican, is seeking his eighth term on the Parish Council. He retired from Lockheed Martin in 2012.
He points to the completion of a new expressway linking Airport Road and U.S. 22 and getting the parish to take over maintenance of detention ponds in the Bel Air subdivision as major achievements in the past four years. He sees economic development as the main issue facing the parish.
Michele Blanchard, a Slidell lawyer, was appointed to fill the District 13 seat after Councilman Richard Artigue stepped down recently. The 40-year-old Republican said she is running because she sees a need for good candidates and has an extensive background of community service.
Blanchard points to her educational background, with a bachelor’s degree in political science and two law degrees, one in taxation, as a valuable addition to the Parish Council. District 13 has the largest coastal area in St. Tammany, and she points to flood control and flood insurance as the most important issues for the parish and district.
Dan Crowley, a 48-year-old Republican who has his own entertainment business, said he wants to bring the leadership skills he developed during his Navy career and as chairman of St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 1 to the council.
Crowley said he decided to run even before Artigue stepped down because he felt the former councilman was not responsive to constituents. He said he will be accessible and will work to restore trust in government.
Joe Fraught, a commercial real estate agent who has served two terms on the Slidell City Council, said he is running for the parish seat at the urging of former constituents.
The Slidell Republican said his experience on the City Council, particularly in dealing with budgets and cost-cutting, will be helpful on the parish body. He points to his work in bringing jobs to the area, including negotiating a lease with Textron that helped fatten the city’s coffers.
Incumbent T.J. Smith Jr., a 68-year-old Democrat from Pearl River, is seeking his second term on the Parish Council, where he says he has served as a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. Smith is retired from Ford Motor Credit and previously served on the Police Jury and School Board.
Smith said he has worked to bring jobs to the area at the Johnny Smith Office Park. If re-elected, he plans to target traffic congestion and work to bring utilities to rural areas that still depend on wells and septic tanks.
District 14 includes parts of eastern St. Tammany.
Jimmy Strickland, a 50-year-old Democrat who left his job as a building inspector for Slidell to run for office, says he is making his first run for office because of his love for the area and the need he saw for a more visible and responsive councilman.
Strickland, who now works as a maintenance engineer for Comfort Inns, said he had to move to Georgia years ago to find job opportunities. Now that he’s returned, he wants to make a difference so his children and grandchildren will be able to stay and find opportunities in St. Tammany, he said.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.