This week well-meaning citizens, both incumbent and challengers, are throwing their names into the hat to run for public office Oct. 20.
All major parish offices are up for consideration, as well as state representatives and senator.
Before you go to the Clerk of Courts to sign up and pay your fee, there are a few things you might want to bear in mind first.
We, the people of St. Mary Parish, are expecting a lot from you.
We’re tired – no, make that sick and tired, of being the ne’er-do-well household in the Acadiana neighborhood. We expect some changes in St. Mary Parish. It’s far too long overdue.
If you’re going to represent us, the voters of this parish, we’re going to hold your feet to the fire. Expect to be scalded if you don’t cut the mustard.
We expect economic and cultural vision. We’re done with "good enough."
We expect our parish to look good and be something we can show pride in. That means doing something about litter, about our public buildings, our infrastructure and roads. We understand that there’s brick-and-mortar projects needed, and while we value clean water coming from the tap and appreciate that when we pull the handle we get a flush, we want you to know that’s not enough. Our roads are atrocious. Our streets and shoulders and ditches are embarrassing messes.
Visiting St. Mary Parish should be memorable not forgettable, or at worst, dismissable.
We expect you to take notice of what’s going on in the rest of the state and utilizing those assets we have here to their best advantage. We realize that while joblessness in St. Mary Parish is outpacing our neighbors, lots of folks are working in the oil patch again. But we’ve been down that rocky road before, and we don’t expect you to put all our eggs in any single basket.
There’s probably not a major automotive plant or anything like that out there looking to come to St. Mary Parish, still, we don’t mind you searching for and enticing one if you think it’s possible, but again, don’t put all the eggs we’re trusting you with in that basket. The key to the future in St. Mary Parish is in our diversity: diversity of cultures, diversity of resources and diversity of potential.
You see, we don’t want anyone up there we can’t trust with our money. Friend of mine says that’s the number one prerequisite of a good public official: Can I trust him with my money?
This is an overlooked – perhaps intentionally – fact among public officials: It’s our money, not yours, except insofar as you’re a taxpayer, too. We expect you to remember that you are, as far as our money goes, like a broker: We expect you to handle our money responsibly and spend it to the best possible returns. And don’t forget, it’s ours not yours.
We expect vision for this parish. Perhaps it’s the nature of the beast that public servants often focus their attention inward, here in a state where there are so many inherent problems, but we expect you to be able to see the forest despite the trees.
Remember that, should you win a seat in public office, you are not being elected to some ivory tower, some impenetrable fiefdom of your own making. There’s no crown on your head. You’re working for us. Make no mistake about it, you’re accountable, answerable and submissive to us, the voters of this parish. Sorry, you can’t change the constitutions of this nation or state to have it any other way.
We expect you to be impeccable in honesty and morality. We expect you to be of good character and better sensibility.
We expect you to answer the phone when we call, and return our calls if you’re not home when we do. You only get one chance with that one. Don’t blow it. Remember, you are here to serve and are answerable to us.
And don’t expect that coming by to visit us every four years is good enough anymore. You’d better show up at our doors more than at election time. We’ve learned to see through that tired old ploy. We expect you to be accessible and accountable.
We need good, inspired, driven people in state and local government, not people who are satisfied with cruising along until the next election. If you’re thinking of qualifying for public office for the check, the insurance, the power or the notoriety…if you’re unable to work with the others who will be elected to office…if you’re only in it for a hobby or pastime…stay home. We don’t want or need you, don’t waste our time.
But if you’re tired of seeing St. Mary Parish outpaced by our counterparts near and far, by all means welcome! We need you. Desperately.
Don’t run around spouting off a lot of promises you know you can’t keep. Our memories are not as short as they used to be, but our patience is shorter. We’ve come to realize that if other parishes can do things and we can’t, something’s wrong, and that’s the phrases "can do" and "can’t do" as in attitudes. We’ve begun to understand that we have more and better resources here in St. Mary than most other places, resources that are sitting idle, languid, lethargic.
We’re not interested in your politics or who owes what to whom: You only owe us. We’re no longer tolerant of your deals and your backstabbings. We’re here to win, and if you aren’t too, then don’t qualify this week. Only winners need apply for these positions Oct. 20. We’re tired of voting in "no good choice" elections, tired of the "lesser of two evils" when we pull the levers. We want to choose from a field of winners in every ballot. Some of you incumbents are winners, some of you thinking about running are winners. You’re who we need in St. Mary Parish.
We expect you to leave no stone unturned in getting St. Mary Parish to the same level – no, to a greater level than our peers, make us the envy of 63 other parishes in this state. We’re done with mediocre, done with least common denominators.
And we know many of you incumbents have tried, beat your head against the walls in defiance of a good ol’ boy system of government outdated since Huey Long, and we know some of you have worked damn hard for us. We appreciate it. We still need you. We want to elevate all public officials to your standards, not have you forced to lower yourself to theirs.
Qualifying for candidacy ends Thursday at 5 p.m. If you’ve got what it takes – drive, dedication, ethics, vision and courage – then please, join in. We’ll listen and hear you out. But we expect that, if you win, you work harder for us than you’ve ever worked at anything in your life, and that doesn’t mean just building your own house nicer, but ours, as well. All of ours. We expect it to be, next to your family and job if you’re still among the work force, your religion, your crusade, your torch to bear and your defining moments.
The next few years are imperative ones for St. Mary Parish. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but I know, with the right people in office and the right support from the constituency of the parish, the sky’s the limit for all of us.