Investment: Former Gov. Edwards speaks at Iberville Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet

PETER SILAS PASQUA news@postsouth.com
Former Gov. Edwin Edwards looks over his notes before delivering his keynote address at the Iberville Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet at Nottoway on Thursday night. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

WHITE CASTLE - Former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards was the keynote speaker and executive director Hank Grace presented the Spirit of Iberville Award to Mickey Rivet at the Iberville Chamber of Commerce's Annual Banquet held at Randolph's at Nottoway Plantation and Resort on Thursday night.

"The chamber is excited about the turnout and Nottoway is gracious to host us," Grace said. "2012 was truly an outstanding year for the chamber and new businesses are continuing to open. The chamber is guiding our parish to new grounds but we must continue to be aggressive in bringing in new businesses."

The invocation was given by Father Cleo Milano.

"May our celebration tonight only increase our joy for God's gift," Milano said.

Glynn Fontenot, 2012 Chairman of the Board, said the chamber represents parish and community involvement, integrity, leadership and dedication.

"I think this is the biggest gathering ever," Fontenot said.

2013 Chairman of the Board Brad Guerin encouraged patronizing local businesses.

"I look forward to representing the chamber," Guerin said. "These are the businesses that represent our chamber so please do business with them."

Edwards, 85, was governor from 1972 to 1980, 1984 to 1988 and 1992 to 1996. He was convicted of racketeering, fraud and other charges related to the rigging of riverboat casino licenses and began serving a 10-year federal prison term in October 2002.

In January 2011, Edwards was released from prison and ordered to remain under home confinement until July of that year. Since then, Edwards has served 18 months of his three-year term of post-prison supervision by the federal Office of Probation and Pretrial Services.

Friday, he filed a motion for early release from the supervision.

Edwards currently lives in Gonzales with his third wife, 34-year-old Trina Scott, and her two sons.

The couple, which met while he was an inmate at a federal prison facility in Oakdale in Allen Parish, is also in a new television series, "The Governor's Wife," which opens at 9 p.m. Feb. 27 on A&E.

"I like to tell stories like Cajun people because they are fun loving," Edwards said at the banquet.

He recalled working as a water boy along the Red River as a 9-year-old and as a librarian in prison. The former governor also described his initial meeting of his current wife.

Edwards had just released a book and received thousands of letters. Wanting to acknowledge everyone, he crafted a form letter but to his surprise, it didn't sit well.

"I finally found a use for Republicans," Edwards said. "You sleep with them."

He figured he would take a chance and she bought him a hamburger in the prison vending machine.

"I promised I would live to walk out despite my age and sentence," Edwards said. "I went to prison for life and came back with a good-looking wife."

Edwards also touched on his time spent in office.

"I thought a politician in office should be honest, forthright and tell it like it is," Edwards said. "I appreciated my service to this state and I appreciate the people."

Edwards recalled a barrel of oil costing $8 while in office. Over the past decade, the average price is $86 compared to about $15 for natural gas.

"If you don't hear anything else I say while I am here, remember this," Edwards said. "If you are under 50 years old and have some money that you want to invest, hear me when I say put it in the natural gas reserves. I guarantee you if you live a respectable length of time, you are going to make a lot of money on your investment."

Edwards also touched on the dawn of gambling casinos in the state when it was only permitted in New Jersey and Nevada.

"I predicted that soon everybody in America would have gambling casinos in close proximity and once again I was criticized," Edwards said.

Today, only Utah and Hawaii don't have some form of gambling. Edwards estimated the industry brings in thousands of tourists, 75,000 jobs and $800 million in tax revenue.

"I never advocated gambling as a profession or a hobby," Edwards said. "It is something that you can do if you wish or leave it alone if you prefer. I just saw it as an opportunity to capitalize on what I saw was going to happen."

Edwards also touched on current issues and predicted a proposal to end state income tax by the current administration will not pass or people will not like it.

"I could have never dreamed the people of this state could be as generous, kind, understanding and supportive as they are," Edwards said in closing. "I will never forget the people of this state and I learned that you will never forget me."