Candidates vow to keep Terrebonne moving

The two men vying to be Terrebonne’s next parish president presented plans of stability during the present economic downturn.

Louisiana House District 52 Rep. Gordon Dove is running against Terrebonne Parish Councilman Danny Babin for the seat of Terrebonne Parish President. The winner will replace term-limited president Michel Claudet.

Babin spent eight years on Terrebonne’s Planning and Zoning Department before winning a seat on the parish council four years ago. He said that his experience working with the council pushed him to run for the highest seat in the parish.

“I probably decided [to run] when I first became a councilperson. And I enjoyed it so much that I would like to move up to the next position, not move down,” Babin said.

Dove has represented District 52 since 2004. He is finishing his third and final term in the Louisiana House of Representatives, as he is term-limited. Dove, who serves on the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority board, said he is running for parish president to ensure coastal restoration in the parish is done right.

“I’ve always eyed [the parish presidency]. I guess I made my final decision a year ago, that I was going to run. I presently sit on the CPRA, the authority that directed the $1.5 billion worth of projects to Terrebonne Parish. I want to see it through,” Dove said. “$1.5 billion just doesn’t skip its way down from Baton Rouge. You’ve got to really keep a close eye on it.”

Babin said that his strength as a parish president would come from his time working in local government rather than state government.

“I deal with issues daily as a councilperson. On the state level, you’re looking at bringing in the dollars, which is the job of a state representative or senator. Not only formulating the laws, but also bringing in the dollars,” Babin said. “A lot of the projects that are going on in Terrebonne Parish right now have state money in it, but the idea for that project came from the parish, came from us.”

Dove said that if elected, his administration will emphasize finishing the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee system in Terrebonne Parish. According to Dove, in the next few months the parish will have 35 miles of levees from Pointe-Aux-Chenes to the Falgout Canal Road either finished or under construction.

“We started construction on Morganza nine years ago. We’ve got to finish protecting ourselves. We’ve got a great level of protection. And remember 12 years ago Terrebonne Parish had no comprehensive levee protection,” Dove said.

Both men acknowledged that the recent downturn in the oil and gas industry presents problems for the parish’s economy and its budget. They each talked about how the parish may have to focus on its core operations next year, while special projects may be put on hold.

“The luxury things that you would like to do may have to be put on hold. What I mean by that is, if you planned on wanting to four-lane a road, well, it might not come to fruition next year. It might come to fruition after the oilfield comes back and sales tax revenues go up,” Babin said.

Dove said, “It’s very important that during these hard economic times due to the price of oil [falling] that we have a parish that’s fiscally strong with a balanced budget yet keep our vital services. When you run a business, you tighten your belt, but you’ve got to keep your services, you’ve got to keep them where they perform well.”

The two candidates also spoke about how these tough times tend to spur diversification in the local economy. They each acknowledged that oil is king in Terrebonne, but that the local economy could still find sources of revenue and jobs outside the energy sector to protect itself in these lean times.

“We’re in a global market. To say that Terrebonne Parish is on an island and we can change everything, we can’t. We have to work within the parameters that are set forth,” Babin said. “But as parish president I’m going to think outside the box and start making Terrebonne Parish a little more diverse.”

“It’s going to be very lean here for a period of time, and I think we have to come together as a community and as a parish president. Anything that the government can do to help the individuals and businesses in this parish and get TEDA to try and diversify the businesses in Terrebonne Parish,” Dove said.

Babin said he hopes to improve community involvement as the leader of the parish. He feels that residents of Terrebonne have more ideas to bring to the table, rather than just letting government officials lead policy. He said that public-private partnerships would promote better work in the parish.

“If you get a hundred ideas thrown out there, and only ten of them are good, it’s better than having none out there. It’s the responsibility of the parish president and the government to take all those ideas and formulate them into something that we know that we can afford to do,” Babin said.

According to Dove, while going door-to-door during his campaign he has heard that drainage issues are a major thorn in the public’s side. He said as parish president he will make drainage a point of emphasis.

“My administration will focus on it, we will do it seven days a week, we will concentrate on keeping everything clean. Drainage is keeping everything clean. There’s a few areas that need to add pumps here and there, there’s some areas that need to have pumps and pump stations,” Dove said.

The state representative also said that one of the biggest challenges when getting into office is getting people in parish government on the same page.

“It’s bringing the council together. I’ve run businesses all my life, it’s bringing everyone together, especially after the election, and bringing harmony among everyone, and let’s keep Terrebonne Parish moving forward,” Dove said.

Babin said one of the most critical parts of the position he’s running for is making sure he has a great staff to delegate to.

“It’s not different than running a company. The toughest part is making sure you have a good team around you. As parish president, as president of the United States, president of anything, you don’t have to know everything, but you have to surround yourself with people who are good and know their specific areas,” Babin said.

Babin stressed that the parish needs to utilize its most valuable resource: its citizens.

“People in Terrebonne Parish are very smart. I’ve been in the seafood business for almost 34 years now, and the majority of people that run the seafood industry don’t have a college education,” he said. “There are some, but these are people who don’t have engineering degrees but can talk engineering with the best of them. We need to use the resource that we have here, and that’s the people.”

Dove spoke of his love for all that makes the parish great, and his desire to keep the parish that way.

“I enjoy the people, the way of life. The fishing, the hunting, the camps. There’s not a better place to live. Terrebonne Parish, the Good Earth. And we want to keep it the Good Earth,” Dove said. •

Parish President