Newell: Pat Brister makes case for third term as St Tammany President

Brister placed second in October primary, headed for Nov. runoff

Newell Normand
October 21, 2019 - 5:22 pm

St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister spoke with Newell in-studio Monday morning to discuss her campaign for a third and final term and her vision for St. Tammany Parish.

Newell began by reminding the WWL audience know about Brister's long career. "Brister has served in any number of leadership positions, in economic development, the Louisiana State Museum Board, the Children's Advocacy Center, the Mayor's Military Advisory Committee, she served on the Federal Home Loan Bank Board in Dallas and President George W. Bush appointed her as one of three delegates representing him at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women - that holds the same kind of pecking order as a US Ambassador and still has that title today."

"Things always rub me wrong about candidates that put themselves out for public office and refuse to debate," Newell continued. "There were two other candidates in the primary, and there was an opportunity to get in the hot seat, and you're the only one who showed up!"

"I've gone to everything I've been invited to," Brister said. "It's my chance to put my message out there. Those candidates that are not comfortable enough to go into the hot seat - they don't have the answers. They might have the soundbites, but that doesn't give the voting public the information they need to make a decision. I hate that it happens that way, because I think every voter needs to know who they're voting for!"

"Your opponent has said a number of times that because of failed sales tax elections that you need to be replaced," Newell said. "I don't quite understand connecting those dots... I kind of view folks' job as giving the public the chance to decide their own future."

"I wasn't able to write the check we needed to pay the bills we had with the money we had, so we put it to the public to renew a tax for the Courthouse and the jail. That's a mandated cost for us. We have to maintain and operate those, in addition to the DA's office, the Sheriff's office, and many others. We had to have the funding to do that, and when it failed, it put us in a pretty difficult spot. We had to take all our general fund money to make up that deficit. I hear that over and over, Mike Cooper saying that 'she tried to pass these taxes.' Well, I have video where he supported it twice. People don't see that part of him because he won't come on air, or to a debate, and answer those questions."

"You come out of the primary in second place... conventional thinking says that's a problem for an incumbent. Have you looked at the election results and determined where your opporunity lies and where it doesn't?" Newell asked.

"We carried the East very handily," Brister answered. "I spent a lot of time over there and Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer helped me a lot. The turnout there didn't help us a lot, it could have been higher. But the first time I ever ran for office, 26 years ago, I was naive at that time but I ran for State Senate, District 11. There were ten of us in that race, and I came in first, and second was Tom Schedler, and he won the runoff and served twelve years. So I know it can be switched, you just have to pick where to put the effort. We have those numbers and we know what we need to do. And one thing that's difficult for me personally is what some people call negative campaigning. We didn't do that, we didn't answer any of the things we were hearing from Mike Cooper. We will be doing that this time."

"You guys have had a lot of growing pains for a long time," Newell said. "The ability of government to react to that growth, and the development of the infrastructure... that's a challenge."

"It is a challenge. We had, 15 years ago maybe, the whole community come together to put together a plan, called New Directions 2025. We had it set where we'd do the infrastructure where we knew the growth was going to be happening. So we were ahead of the game at that time in our planning, but then Katrina came. Two years later, we had our numbers for 2025 already, but without the time to do the infrastructure. So we had to do a lot of catch-up. But we've done an awful lot, just with the Interstate system alone. Part of it's already been widened in the East and we've got grants for the West, we are widening the Interstate in the most crowded areas... those will go out to bid this year, in December.

Hear the rest of the interview in the audio player below.

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