The new year will bring about a face-lift of sorts to the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury as half of the parish’s 12-member governing body will be replaced.
Longtime juror and jury President Melanie Bueche says its six-member freshman class is the largest the jury has seen in nearly 20 years. And she thinks it will definitely mean a personality change for the elected body.
“I’ve spoken to all of them and they seem to be very enthusiastic,” she said. “They have a lot of things they want to see done. Hopefully it will be contagious.”
The change is one Juror Justin Cox has wanted for quite some time.
Cox, who enters his second term on the Police Jury, has often been an outspoken critic of the “good ol’ boys club” he felt influenced many of the jury’s majority votes on controversial issues.
“I just feel more confident that votes will reflect the stance on the issue and not any allegiances to any kind of voting bloc,” Cox said. “We’ve had orientation … and those guys were very in tune to every aspect of what we were talking about. I’m very optimistic.”
The jury shake-up started materializing before the 2015 elections when Allen Monk, Russell Polar and Janet Vosburg chose not to seek re-election.
Then, just weeks before the Oct. 24 primary, John “Sassy” Pourciau was disqualified from seeking re-election for his District 2 seat because he failed to disclose in qualifying papers that he owed more than $5,000 in fines to the state’s Board of Ethics.
Pourciau’s ouster meant an automatic win for his challenger, Mitch Langlois, the 54-year-old Morganza man who’s walking away from his position on the Town Council to serve on the Police Jury.
District 12 incumbent Juror Clifford “Ted” Nelson was pushed out in the Oct. 24 primary and will be replaced by Charles “Gumball” Watkins, who narrowly defeated his challenger in the Nov. 21 runoff.
And District 7 longtime Juror Albert Dukes lost his seat to Edward “Pop” Bazile in the runoff.
Bazile, a 54-year-old retiree of the Pointe Coupee Parish School System, called his victory a sign that residents are ready for a change.
“I really want to get the governing body of the whole parish working together,” he said. “ ‘Together we stand’ is my motto. If we’re not working alongside the rest of the municipalities in the parish, everyone starts moving in different directions.”
Community servant, pastor and industrial worker Anthony Hurst will now represent the constituents of District 3. Hurst, 54, defeated four challengers in the fall elections after Polar chose not to seek re-election.
Hurst said one of his first priorities will be helping to juggle the parish’s strained financial situation through a balanced budget. There are also a few drainage issues in his district he wants to address.
“I notice in the media that the jury has been fighting a lot; we need to come together so we can move forward,” he said. “Everybody is telling me good luck getting into it. I’m looking at it with an optimistic view.”
District 9’s new representative, Stephen Smith, also wants to become an instrument of positive change for the Police Jury.
Smith, a 35-year-old native who works in the environmental industry, will assume the reins following Vosburg’s exit.
“I have a lot of confidence with the new ones in place; we’ve had sideline conversations. We feel like it’s a fresh start,” he said.
Smith, a military veteran, said he wants to bring a statesman-like quality of leadership to the jury. He’s also pro-business.
Gordon Taylor is making affordable housing one of his top priorities as he slides into the District 1 seat that Monk previously occupied.
Taylor’s also well aware of the parish’s ongoing challenges, like financing the detention center.
“Our revenue is not up where it needs to be,” the 64-year-old retiree said. “We have to generate some kind of funds. I know people hate taxes, but we may have to end up leaning on some sort of tax in order to get some of the things moving.”
The new jurors, along with the six returning representatives, will be sworn into office Jan. 11, at the Police Jury’s first meeting of 2016.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.