Reported by Marty Briggs
You can find Calcasieu Parish on a map of Louisiana easy enough, but what you won't see is the 15 different districts that divide it.
Each of these districts contains approximately 12,000 people, with one person from each district elected to serve on the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury. Each member of the Police Jury is equal in power, and is expected to put the well being of the parish above the needs of all else. The Police Jury will meet several times throughout a given month, overseeing the parish budget and operating the parish maintenance services. It was at one of these meetings several months ago where our story begins.
In early March of this year, Police Juror Brent Clement took the opportunity in the final minutes of an agenda meeting to submit an idea for consideration. His idea was to propose funding a study about the benefits and drawbacks of having an elected parish president; one man who is elected by the people of the parish to be its leader.
The idea was quickly rejected, falling by a 9-to-4 vote with one abstention.
Calcasieu Parish Police Juror, Brent Clement: "If you look across the state, most of the Police Jury forms of government are small rural parishes that don't have a lot of population. Most of the larger populated parishes, in fact all of the larger populated parishes have a parish president in place."
Calcasieu Parish Police Juror, Hal McMillin: "I thought it was a relatively easy vote. Yes, I liked the study. We do a lot of studies throughout Calcasieu Parish, whether its drainage or roads or different projects we have going on, so I thought it was a really good idea to go ahead and 'yeah, let's do this study.' I'd like to see if having a parish president is something that would be good for Calcasieu Parish."
Police Juror Kevin Guidry voted against the idea, and says he can't understand why it was brought up in the first place.
Calcasieu Parish Police Juror, Kevin Guidry: "Why would you want to change something that's been so successful here in Calcasieu Parish for so many years. That's the thing that kind of stumped me there for a minute, because I'm saying "well, wait. Look at all the things we've done. Look at how we've grown. Look at how we've helped people.' I mean, we are a hands-on governing body."
Clement: "I'm not saying it was necessarily a good idea or a bad idea. I just wanted to look at it and then have some outside input into it and visit some other parishes and see if we could improve the way we do government."