Rick Ward resigns as District 17 senator

Staff Report

The conclusion of the 2022 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature on Monday also marked the end of the road for state Sen. Rick Ward.

Ward, R-Port Allen, announced his resignation last week. He said he accepted a job in the public relations sector and would continue to practice law.

Rick Ward, seen here in 2019 with DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson, resigned as state senator Monday at the end of the 2022 Regular Session. He left office after he led efforts to secure the first round of funding for a new Mississippi River Bridge that will connect La. 1 to La. 30 in Iberville Parish.

Ward won his first term in 2012. He will leave office roughly 18 months before his current term expires.

His resignation will lead to a special election this fall.

“I feel I’ve accomplished my goals as a legislator in terms of what I wanted to do infrastructure-wise, and this was a good opportunity for me, and I wanted to make the best of it,” said Ward, 39. “It wasn’t the easiest decision, but now that I’ve made it, I’m happy with it.

“We’ve had a good working group and I’m glad we were able to get some things done,” he said.

His resignation announcement came after his push for a new Mississippi River Bridge gained House and Senate approval.

As chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, he introduced legislation in 2017 that paved the way for the formation of the Capital Area Roads and Bridges District.

Ward’s efforts led to $300 million in funding for a bridge, which tentatively will be built on one of three sites between the north of Plaquemine and an area north of White Castle.

He also pushed legislation that will lead to construction of a route off Interstate 10 that will connect La. 415 to La. 1. The artery, which is expected to reduce ease gridlock along La. 1 and I-10, is set for construction next year.

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso said Ward’s accomplishments will be remembered for years to come.

“He managed to get funding for the bridge, something we wanted for years – mission accomplished,” he said. "He’s a young man with a young family, and the state senator job in a part time position for 11 years, but sometimes as a young man it’s time to move on.”

Plaquemine Mayor Edwin “Ed” Reeves also praised Ward for his contributions to the area.

“Rick served us well,” he said. “He did a lot to help our area, and he leaves some big shoes to fill.”

He changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 2013.

Ward’s announcement has led to one announcement of candidacy, while rumors swirl on others who may enter the race.

Brusly resident Caleb Kleinpeter, a Brusly resident and native of Grosse Tete, made his intentions known Friday on social media.

"After much prayerful consideration and discussion with my family, we are excited to officially announce my candidacy for the District 17 Senate election," he posted. "It’s my belief that the citizens of District 17 desire someone who carries out the will of the voters, has displayed a consistent track record of fiscal responsibility, as well as someone who has served as an advocate and voice for taxpayers to represent their interests at the Capitol."

Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, D-Fordoche, also is considering a run.

One public official who was mentioned as a possibility said he has no intention to run.

Tony Clayton, who succeeded longtime 18th Judicial District Attorney Ricky Ward (father of the current senator) in 2020, said he already has the job he wants.

“I’m one million percent satisfied,” he said. “The voters wanted me to be their DA, and I’m going to remain their DA until they run me off.”