Perseverance defines 2021 in Plaquemine, Iberville Parish

Staff Report

It was a year of perseverance in 2021 for Iberville Parish.

The ongoing struggles from the pandemic prevailed at the start of the year, which meant Mardi Gras traditions never rolled. It may have seemed strange enough not to see the parade, Mardi Gras balls and other events, but the weekend leading into Fat Tuesday ushered one of the longest freeze events in almost 60 years.

With spring, however, we saw a bloom in our area. The annual car show returned, high school baseball and softball teams were on the field and graduations returned to their traditional format.

It also brought some of the biggest rain events in several years, which led local leaders to take a closer look at ways to improve drainage and eventually minimize flooding.

We saw fireworks again at the Fourth of July, football in the fall and the return of the International Acadian Festival.

The year 2021 brought all of that and much more. As we close the books on 2021, here’s a look at some of the events that shaped the year.

JANUARY

January brought a different life for District Attorney Richard “Ricky” Ward, who retired after 30 years of active daily involvement in criminal case prosecutions.

Ward was first elected in 1990 and took office in January 1991. He has served as the District Attorney for Iberville, West Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee Parishes ever since, being re-elected twice and having no opposition for election twice.

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Iberville Parish’s only nighttime Mardi Gras parade was one of the 2021 carnival celebrations throughout the state canceled due to the COVID pandemic.

The announcement came as the total number of cases continued a spike that began in late November 2020.

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Henry “Bucket” Scott Jr. died in January

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso remembered longtime public servant Henry “Bucket” Scott Jr. for his years of loyal, selfless service to the parish.

Services were held for longtime public servant Henry “Bucket” Scott on Jan. 1 at St. John the Baptist Church in Dorsevyille.

His extensive resume included multiple terms as an Iberville Parish Councilman for District 3 and years of work in youth programs.

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Iberville Parish received its first round of COVID-19 vaccine after the CDC made the vaccinations available during the first week of January. The first rounds of shots went to residents 70 years and older.

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District Attorney Antonio M. “Tony” Clayton took his oath of office Jan. 7.

District Attorney Antonio M. “Tony” Clayton

He was unopposed for the position and assumed the reins from former District Attorney Richard “Ricky” Ward, who retired after 30 years in office.

He was sworn in on the steps of the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse by retired Louisiana Supreme Court Judge Kitty Kimball, as his wife, Paula and his mother Clara, held the Bible.

Clayton served as First Assistant District Attorney and was the Chief of Felony Trials for the DA’s office previous to becoming District Attorney.

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A statue that paid homage to Confederate soldiers was removed from the grounds of Plaquemine City Hall.

The removal of the statue came 6 ½ months after the Iberville Parish Council unanimously approved the removal of the monument. Council members rendered the vote at the June 16, 2020 meeting.

FEBRUARY

Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi was elected president of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association. In addition, he was among three sheriffs that Gov. John Bel Edwards appointed to the Louisiana Sheriff’s Executive Institute. Stassi took office in July. He succeeded Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard.

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Dr. Craig Greene, a Maringouin resident who represents District 2 for the Louisiana Public Service Commission, was elected on a 4-1 vote last week to become the commission’s chairman. Greene was elected in a special election in fall 2017 to fill an unexpired term. He won an election for a full term one year later. His current term expires Dec. 31, 2024.

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The winter storm that shut down schools, government offices and most businesses across Iberville Parish kept public works crews working on fallen limbs, power outages and restoration of water pressure. The 20-degree low reported Feb. 16 shattered a record that had been on the books since 1903. It marked the longest stretch of sub-freezing temperatures since January 1962.

MARCH

East Iberville girls basketball wins the Class 1A non-select state championship.

A 50-46 win over Northwood-Lena in the title game earned East Iberville girls the Class 1A non-select state championship March 4 at the University Center on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. It was the first state title win for EIHS and the first since Sunshine (now East Iberville) captured the state championship in 1967.

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District Attorney Tony Clayton said he wants to try offenders age 15 and older as adults when they are charged with murder or attempted murder.

“We will not tolerate it on the Westside,” he said. “I’m not playing with these juvenile offenders, and if they’re old enough to purchase a gun, they’re old enough to be tried as an adult.”

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The northern portion of Iberville Parish moved one step closer to the high-tech digital age. A groundbreaking ceremony March 10 paved the way for the installation of underground lines for fiberoptic cable, which will bring high-speed internet services to residents throughout the area. The lines for the 100-megabyte fiberoptic internet will provide service for Grosse Tete, Rosedale, Ramah and Bayou Blue. The project is part of a USDA-funded program partnership with STAR Communications. (PIC)

APRIL

Rainfall totals over the course of seven days surpassed the average totals for the entire month of April.

The wrath of Mother Nature weighed down heavily on Iberville Parish in April. Rainfall totals over the course of seven days surpassed the average totals for the entire month of April.

Plaquemine reported 9.1 inches of rain during a two-day rain event. Rainfall totals ranged from 7.82 inches in Bayou Sorrel to 5.86 inches in St. Gabriel.

MAY

The annual St. Jude Car Show returned.

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes and the annual St. Jude Car Show, the event returned in high gear. A large crowd converged at the Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta Waterfront Park on May 1 for the 23rd annual St. Jude Car Show.

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Former White Castle Mayor Gerald Jemarr Williams was issued a three-year probation sentence in district court after he pleaded no contest to a corruption charge. Williams was arrested in April for an illegal reimbursement of $2,000 during his time in office. The charges included malfeasance in office, illegal use of a moveable and filing false public records.

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The area along the St. Gabriel Civic Center and MSA-East became unnavigable during the five-day rain event last week that brought more than 13 inches of rain to the area.

Storms during the third week of May reminded St. Gabriel Mayor Lionel Johnson of the city’s greatest challenge. More than 12 inches of rain reopened concerns about the drainage issues in the city.

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Nearly 100 parish workers and volunteers worked nearly six hours May 21 to repair the breach of an Aqua Dam that forced the mandatory evacuation of more than 1,000 residents in the Bayou Sorrel/Bayou Pigeon area.

JUNE

Crews from Iberville Parish Government continued efforts to ease the heavy water volume along Bayou Manchac. Many of those residents have suggested a building moratorium allow officials to get a firmer grasp on drainage issues in the rapidly growing area.

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The Iberville Parish Council passed a one-year moratorium on new residential construction in unincorporated areas on the east side of the parish.

A unanimous vote by the Iberville Parish Council and the signature of Parish President Mitchell Ourso kicked off a one-year moratorium on new residential construction in unincorporated areas on the east side of the parish. The vote came two days before Ascension followed suit with a nine-month moratorium for the eastern portion of that parish.

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The City of Plaquemine broke ground for the Plaquemine Riverfront Recreational Trail on June 22 at the Plaquemine Lock Historic Site. Construction of Phases 1 and 2 will began in July and will include the trailhead adjacent to the Lock site and extension of the trail to the North Plaquemine Park.

JULY

The five municipalities in Iberville Parish were among the 290 statewide that received a share of the $315 million in coronavirus relief aid. The funds were allocated through the American Rescue Plan to help them respond to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency and support economic recovery.

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Donna Kirkland announced her retirement as a teacher for her alma St. John School, where she worked for 44 years.

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A nonprofit agency in Plaquemine celebrated the fulfillment of one of its major goals to help provide affordable housing to local residents. An open house July 18 hosted by New Horizons Community Development Corp. marked the dedication of Wesley Place, at the corner of Iron Farm Road and Baytown Street in Dupont Annex Subdivision. The homes are in walking distance of Plymouth Rock Baptist Church and Iberville Elementary School.

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A forum July 20 brought together the mayor and Board of Selectmen last week, along with law enforcement and the District Attorney on how to protect Plaquemine residents against the escalation in youth violence and illegal firearms. A crowd of more than 300 packed the meeting chamber, while an overflow crowd listened from outside the room during the discussion at Plaquemine City Hall.

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Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi was sworn in as President of the Louisiana Sheriffs Association Board of Directors on July 27 during the annual banquet of at the LSA Convention. (PIC)

AUGUST

Students across Iberville Parish public schools returned to class for the start of a school year that proved both different – and, in some ways –similar to the last school year. (PIC)

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A crowd of more than 200 watched the arrival of the Pacific Big Boy steam engine in Plaquemine. (pic)

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Hurricane Ida brought damage and lengthy power outages to White Castle and other parts of Iberville Parish upon landfall Aug. 27. (pic)

SEPTEMBER

Funeral services were held for Stanley H. “Jackie” Jackson, a longtime public servant who later became the first director of the Iberville Parish Office of Emergency Planning. Jackson died Sept. 11. He was 86.

He served more than 10 years at the helm of the lberville OEP, which oversees emergency response, coordinates disaster services and emergency planning. (PIC)

OCTOBER

State Attorney General Jeff Landry spoke in a press conference at the Plaquemine Fire Department about the use of Naloxone (Narcan) in life-saving efforts for cases of opioid overdose. Also at the conference are Plaquemine Fire Chief Darren Ramirez, Plaquemine Chief of Police Kenny Payne, Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi and Plaquemine Mayor Edwin M. “Ed” Reeves Jr.

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Isabella LoBue, daughter of Jarid and Gina LoBue, was named 2021 Evangeline.

Isabella LoBue, daughter of Jarid and Gina LoBue, was named 2021 Evangeline. She succeeded 2020 Evangeline Emma Hargrove, daughter of Crockett and Paige Hargrove. 

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The International Acadian Festival returned in 2021.

One year after setbacks that included the loss of the carnival rides – and a pandemic – held back the International Acadian Festival, the Iberville Parish tradition resumed in grand fashion. An estimated 8,000 people attended the festival between Friday night and Sunday night at the Mark A.“Tony” Gulotta Plaquemine Waterfront Park and Pavilion for the 52nd annual event (pic)

NOVEMBER

Efforts by state Rep. Chad Brown, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development paved the way for change-out of a 7-foot-wide culvert that provides drainage for a portion of Plaquemine into Bayou Plaquemine. The drainage culvert under La. 3066 (Bayou Road) was increased to a 9-foot drain.

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Iberville Parish mourned the loss of Randy Ware, began his career as an accountant with Lemoyne Community Agency. He was appointed as the Parish Community Services Director when the Police Jury took over Lemoyne Community Agency in 1989. His work with the parish continued after the transition from the police jury form of government to Home Rule Charter in 1997.

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More than 400 people packed the Plaquemine Community Center on Nov. 13 to pay their last respects for longtime Selectman Oscar S. Mellion Sr., who died Nov. 2 after a battle with cancer. He was best known for his 24 years of service on the Board of Selectmen, but he was also a U.S. Army Veteran, a member of the Louisiana State Parole Board, a Plaquemine Deputy Marshal and investigator for the Plaquemine City Court.

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Plaquemine residents bid farewell to longtime businessman V.J. Vicknair, founder of Vicknair Printing. He founded his business in 1978 and remained active until the start of the pandemic. He was 89.

DECEMBER

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso will seek re-election.

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso said last week that a longtime goal with huge implications for the parish has led him to his decision to seek another term in office. His plan to run for a seventh full term in the 2023 race stems largely from his hopes that can convince the state to select Iberville Parish for the site of a new Mississippi River bridge.

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“All Is Bright” draws more than 2,000 residents into downtown Plaquemine on Dec. 12 for the event’s return after a one-year absence due to the pandemic.