PONCHATOULA — Incumbent Mayor Robert F. “Bob” Zabbia, now serving in his fourth, four-year term as mayor, is facing three challengers in the Oct. 12 election.
Zabbia, a Democrat, faces former state Rep. Steve Pugh, real estate broker Bub Tucker and roofing contractor Guy Huffine. Pugh and Huffine are Republicans and Tucker is an independent. Huffine and Tucker are seeking political office for the first time.
One of the issues cited by all three of Zabbia’s challengers involves a problem with what has been termed “brown water” being delivered to homes and businesses.
Zabbia insists the brown water problem has been largely solved and the city’s water quality has improved over the past several years.
"Since 2015, the city has addressed the problem and we have worked with engineers and municipal water specialists to rid the city of this problem," Zabbia said. "In 2015, we had 197 calls about the water; by 2017, the calls had dwindled to only a few.”
Zabbia also said Ponchatoula has consistently maintained a healthy fund balance and has received clean audits each year of his tenure, while the city has steadily improved its infrastructure. “Our city remains debt-free without any bond or major governmental obligations,” he said. During his most recent term, he said, the city received $7.4 million in grants.
Pugh, who was term-limited after three terms in the state House of Representatives, said he decided to run for mayor because of "my loyalty to Ponchatoula. … I have been a lifelong resident of Ponchatoula and I believe that I can help my city as mayor. My experience on the Municipal Committee in the state Legislature has given me some insights into the problems and challenges facing cities in Louisiana. I have been a local businessman for many years, and I want to encourage more businesses to come to our city.”
Pugh said that if elected mayor he would seek economic development and job creation and would work to improve traffic flow and transportation, in addition to dealing with the brown water issue.
Tucker is promising not to accept any campaign donations. He said that if elected he would address the brown water complaints by finding water quality experts, and he would work toward improving the city’s overall failing infrastructure.
Tucker also said he would seek to revitalize parks within the city limits by exploring the possibility of having them managed by the Ponchatoula Area Recreation Department. “The Jaycee Park, which was donated to the city, is not being utilized fully at this time," he said. "We try to get people to come downtown, but when there are big tournaments at the PARD park, which is outside the city, the out-of-town visitors don’t come downtown.”
Tucker said he would work to bring diversity and inclusion to all aspects of the city’s operations. He also favors using annexation to expand the city limits. He said he also favors term limits and feels strongly that the mayor’s position should not become what he called a “career job.”
Huffine said that if elected he, too, would seek experts to address brown water concerns. He added that the city’s infrastructure needs an overhaul, especially sewerage and drainage. He said he would also work to bring development to the downtown area.
Huffine said that his experience in business would be an asset in helping to improve Ponchatoula in many different areas.
“I want to do whatever I can do to make Ponchatoula the great little city that it used to be," Huffine said. "At one time we were known as The Antique City, but we have way too many empty buildings in the downtown at this time.”