Neither Mayor Trashica Robinson nor any of the three aldermen in the Village of Tangipahoa are seeking re-election Nov. 3. Only Police Chief Darrell Martin is running for re-election; his opponent is Jermey Robinson.
Previous mayor Brenda Nevels is running for mayor against the police chief’s wife, Alderman Sheila Martin, and against Dawn Gray, who served as alderman while Nevels was mayor.
Why do current aldermen Debrah Cyprian, Ricky Coleman and Mrs. Martin want out? They put together a list:
There’s a lack of communication between the mayor and aldermen.
A lawsuit the mayor brought against individual aldermen has caused them to be summoned to court in Amite three times and to court in New Orleans once.
In the midst of the pandemic, water service has been shut off to citizens who are in arrears on their water bills.
The village is not in compliance with the Clean Water Act.
Sewer lines are old and broken.
The board learned just last Friday that village government has not had any property insurance since January.
Village government has not had an attorney since January.
The required yearly audit did not happen.
The clerk position has been a revolving door with eight hired over the past three and a half years.
“I’m looking forward to Dec. 31 when I can kiss this position goodbye,” Mrs. Cyprian said Wednesday.
During the intense Presidential Debate later that night, Mayor Robinson commented on social media, “If you are watching the debate, then you have an idea of village politics.”
Why do this?
In addition to the three candidates for mayor, five people are running for the three aldermanic positions: Pam Bean, Reginald Johnson, Shanita McKnight, Margaret Morris and Willis Smith. Why are they seeking office if the situation is so bad?
Bean, Johnson and Smith noted the disharmony among the current administration that impedes progress but also spoke of the village’s potential. Mrs. McKnight declined to comment on village government’s current situation. Mrs. Nevels, the former mayor who was unseated by Robinson in 2016, said the village needs experienced leadership and there are projects she wants to complete. The Daily Star was unable to reach Mrs. Morris or mayoral candidates Martin and Gray.
Mr. Johnson was born in nearby Kentwood and grew up in the village. He’s a truck driver pursuing a degree in behavioral science with a career goal of opening his own counseling center. He has no previous political experience but said he has plenty of life experience.
“Nobody wants to agree with anybody,” he said of the division between the mayor and aldermen. “There’s a lot of inner commotion and disagreement. We need to agree on a common goal and come up with a plan of action. We have potential to be better. We need leadership.”
Mrs. Bean has been the elected secretary of a Democratic Political Action Committee. She has served as a Girl Scout troop liaison administrator and as a union representative. She attends village government meetings. This is her first time to run for office.
“I don’t know what’s causing the fallout at City Hall and these personal grievances,” she said. “I just know my focus is on the residents. I don’t agree with arguing. Several people are running for office. I’m willing to work with any of them. I believe if you get the right combination of elected officials with a vision, change can occur.”
Smith worked 14 years as head of maintenance for the village. He took classes with the Rural Water Association, had a Class 2 license before he retired and said he can help get grants. He said he knows the village’s infrastructure and what it needs. He is confident that he can help if elected.
“There’s ways of doing things,” he said.
‘It all depends...’
Mrs. Nevels agrees. She does not think the situation is as bad as some say. Village government does not have much revenue, but she has been successful in writing and getting grants. The village can thrive on grants, she said.
“It all depends on who you talk to and who is frustrated,” she said. “A lot of people don’t understand. They want to blame somebody, but I think everything is going pretty smoothly.”
Even so, she said the village must have an attorney and she hopes an attorney will step up to help.
“I know insurance can be pretty expensive, but when I was there, we kept up the insurance,” she said.
The issue with the Clean Water Act, she said, is the old vehicles sitting in the village’s “water yard.” She said the violation can be resolved by moving the junk to a parcel of donated property.
She wants to make the village playground bigger.
Mrs. Nevels retired in May after a career as a business teacher in public schools in Amite, Loranger and Varnado. If elected mayor again, she will have more time now to devote to village government and be involved, she said.
“A couple of people asked me to run. I thought about it a long time and decided to try it again,” she said. “I see improvements we need. We need leadership.”