Jewell re-elected council chair in tight 7-6 vote

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter

The Iberville Parish Council's annual election of officers last week showed a sharp division among the 13 members headed into their election year.

Council Chair Matthew H. “Matt” Jewell's own vote gave him a 7-6 win in a head-to-head contest with the former chairman, Eugene P. Stevens Jr.

Vice Chair Warren M. “T-Notchie” Taylor of White Castle, who was re-elected as vice chair, voted to bring Stevens back.

The council, which elects officers annually, voted 7-6 to keep Jewell in the post for 2011.

Councilman Leonard “Buck” Jackson of St. Gabriel, who served as Stevens' vice chair for much is his tenure, nominated Stevens, and drew a second from Councilman Howard Oubre Jr. of Plaquemine.

Stevens, also from Plaquemine, was the first and only council chair from the time the Home Rule Charter went into effect in October 1997 until he resigned the chairmanship in April rather than face a challenge from Jewell, who was then elected in a 10-3 vote.

Councilman Timothy J. Vallet of Rosedale, with a second from Mitchel J. Ourso Sr. of White Castle, nominated Jewell re-election.

Without discussion, the vote followed with Ourso, Vallet, Jewell, Wayne M. Roy of St. Gabriel, and Edwin M. Reeves Jr., Terry J. Bradford and Louis “Pete” Kelley Jr., all of Plaquemine, voting for Jewell.

Stevens received votes from Taylor, Henry J. Bucket Scott Jr. of Bayou Goula, Salaris Butler of Seymourville, Jackson, Oubre and himself.

Vallet, with a second from Reeves, then nominated Bradford as vice chairman. They were the only ones to vote for the Plaquemine councilman. Jewell did not vote, but even Bradford voted for Taylor, who won 10-2.

Bradford said later he appreciated the nomination, but favored keeping both Jewell and Taylor in the jobs.

“You're a pretty good sport, Mr. Bradford, voting for somebody else,” Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. commented as he took the podium to give his monthly report.

The parish president said the parish's hospital consultants believe a new parish hospital will cost $36 million, and have advised the parish needs a private partner to make the hospital viable.

At Ourso's recommendation, the Parish Council has dedicated $21.6 million in federal hurricane recovery funds to build a small hospital in the Plaquemine area to replace the defunct River West Medical Center. Ourso continues to oppose using or raising parish taxes to support the new venture.

Ourso also reported that:

– Bids will be opened February 8 on a new North Iberville Community Center.

– Bids will go out in March on a $500,000 grant-funded sewerage project in the Bruceville/Patureau Lane area.

– Winter weather continues to hold up the completion of Enterprise Boulevard South from Bayou Road near the Iberville Parish Jail to Belleview Road at Tenant Road. The project was slated for completion at the end of 2010, but now is expected to be ready for traffic in the first week of March, “weather permitting.”