When the Jefferson Parish School Board convenes in January, there will be one glaring absence: two-term board member Cedric Floyd, a controversial force in local politics who at times angered his board colleagues and at other times shrewdly bent them to his will.

On Saturday, Floyd lost his bid for a third consecutive term, falling to political newcomer Simeon Dickerson in a landslide.

It's the second time Floyd has lost his try for a third consecutive term on the board. After two terms in the 1990s, he lost in 1998.

Dickerson won't be the only new face at School Board meetings next year. Four of the nine members will be new, and the election has produced a chorus of vows to work together for the parish's children.

But no addition to the board will likely be as notable as the subtraction of Floyd.

Over the years, the bombastic 61-year-old businessman has proved that he can be a wily political operator, even manipulating board members with whom he has had long-running, and heated, disagreements.

In 2015, attorney I. Harold Koretzky produced an investigative report on a series of harassment allegations lodged against Floyd by former school system employee Sharon Hunter. In that report, Koretzky detailed hundreds of text messages and phone calls, as well as abusive behavior, Floyd directed at Hunter.

But when Koretzky presented the report to the board, Floyd, who was the board's president at the time, convinced several of his colleagues not to go into closed session to hear the report presented.

When those same board members voted not to hear the report in open meeting, it was effectively killed. Several members still hadn't read it last year, when The Advocate acquired a copy and published a story about the report.

The board eventually settled a lawsuit arising from the claims for $60,000. A similar suit from a different woman is nearing settlement.

Floyd took the lead in pushing for a November 2017 millage election that would have paid for pay raises for school system employees. It was clear that many of his colleagues didn't favor the proposal, but Floyd managed to cast the debate as pro- or anti-teacher, and in the end, most of them voted to put the measure on the ballot, where it failed by less than 500 votes out of more than 41,000 cast.

That was one reason he had the steadfast support of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers.

"Mr. Floyd has traditionally been a fighter for educators in the system," said Kesler Camese-Jones, interim president of the JFT.

She pointed not just to the tax proposal but also to Floyd's work to revive a collective bargaining agreement for teachers after it had lapsed during the tenure of former Superintendent James Meza.

But there were missteps that likely harmed him with the voters in his district. Floyd, who is African-American, played a leading role in the board's hiring of its first permanent black superintendent, Isaac Joseph, in 2015.

Less than three years later, though, it was Floyd who leveled a series of still-secret charges against his old ally, leading to another investigation. Joseph was out months later.

He also spent thousands of dollars in public money on travel and hotel stays, including while attending conferences in New Orleans. He feuded with administrators such as former Superintendent Diane Roussel, who refused to meet with him alone.

And he picked fights with several of his colleagues, vowing in May that most of them would be gone after the election, insulting another's marital status and once threatening that "heads will be cut off" at a future meeting.

That may be why some are happy to see him go.

"I'm walking on air," said Mark Morgan, the current board president and a longtime Floyd foe. "Cedric made being on the School Board unpleasant."

Fellow board member Larry Dale, another Floyd opponent, was similarly ecstatic. "It's a beautiful day," he said. "It's great when it all comes together."

Even Ricky Johnson, the board's only other African-American member and one of the two votes on which Floyd could routinely count, said he looks forward to a more harmonious board.

"The board is going to be a little bit more willing to hear what each other has to say," he said.

Johnson, however, praised Floyd for his effectiveness. "He was somewhat a mentor of mine, and he knows a lot and knows ways of getting things done," Johnson said.

Floyd did not return messages requesting comment.

What made Saturday's result particularly surprising for Jefferson Parish political watchers was not that Dickerson won, but the margin of his victory. Floyd got just 37 percent of the vote, a shocking tally for an incumbent who received 43 percent in the Nov. 6 primary.

"I thought it would be close," said Dale, who supported Dickerson.

Whether Saturday turns out to be Floyd's final political appearance is unknown. He's disappeared from political life for a time before.

After his 1998 loss, he didn't run for the board again until 2006, when he lost again. He then won the seat in 2010, after a 12-year absence from the board. In 2011, he ran unsuccessfully for the Parish Council.

Floyd's absence could make it easier for Superintendent Cade Brumley — on the job since March — to get some of his bigger initiatives implemented. Brumley has said that he would work with any board member, but Floyd has a history of bogging down administrators' agendas.

And there are plenty of big issues to tackle: career-technical education, early childhood education, teaching those for whom English is not a first language, and addressing low teacher pay and aging facilities.

For his part, Dickerson plans to immediately bring a different tone to the District 5 seat. "I'm going to be open, receptive and keep an open line of communication," he said. "I'm looking forward to working with everybody."

His words match the current tone of board discourse.

After what could be an emotional meeting Thursday, with four members bidding adieu, including Floyd and Marion "Coach" Bonura, the board won't reconvene until the new year. 

"It's going to look like a united board working on the business of education instead of being commandeered and hijacked," Dale said. 


Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.