Past Politicians Ready for Change

Reported by: Britney Glaser

As Governor Bobby Jindal looks toward a new era of change, some politicians of Louisiana's political past talked to 7News about their struggles and victories in changing the workings of the state.

Former State Representatives Vic Stelly of Moss Bluff and Jerry Theunissen of Jennings each spent sixteen years working in the state legislature, but they say if ever Louisiana is primed for change, there's never been a better time than now.

"We can change, we must change, we will change!" said Jindal in his Inaugural address.  A round of applause could be heard by the crowd - supporting the governor's message of change for Louisiana.  It's a message that seasoned veterans of Louisiana politics say can be achieved with the new man in charge.

Vic Stelly of Moss Bluff served as a state representative for 16 years.  He says, "If we don't take advantage of this opportunity, shame on us. We've got money, we've got good people in there, we've got intelligent people leading us - here's our chance."

Jerry Theunissen of Jennings served as both a state representative and a state senator for a combined 16 years.  He says Jindal is "the right person at the right time and I think the people of Louisiana are ready for change and I think he brings change."

Between Stelly and Theunissen's years in the state legislature, they worked under four very different governors.  Stelly says, "I went in with Buddy Roemer and I served four years with Buddy. Then after that I was with Edwin Edwards...I was sort of on the outside for those four years."  "Mike Foster came in next," says Theunissen, "and he was more of a good ole country boy and then Kathleen Blanco came in and that was a little different style again."

With each change in administration came an opportunity to make changes to better the state, but Stelly and Theunissen say the changes cannot occur unless the person in the top position is a true leader.  "I think that's what Jindal's going to bring," says Theunissen, "and he's going to be a good, strong leader and I think he's got a great agenda for Louisiana."

Jindal's first item on the agenda is ethics reform - a political hot topic for decades.  Stelly says, "That would go so far in showing the rest of the nation that we've got a new governor, a new legislature and we're going to try to do things differently. The number one thing we're going to try to do differently is we're gonna have ethics and we're gonna do things right in Louisiana."

With 59 new members in the state legislature and an experienced politician taking the reins for governor, there's an almost contagious optimism for the future of the bayou state.  "I think it's been 20 years since I've seen this much enthusiasm in Louisiana for incoming administration," says Stelly.

Both Stelly and Theunissen say a major difference in Jindal's first day on the job compared to a governor twenty years ago is money.  Two decades ago the state had a $1 billion debt, compared today to a $1 billion surplus.