ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - In one month, Ascension Parish voters will elect a new leader. Parish President Tommy Martinez is retiring after eight years in office.
Five men are vying for the position. Land surveyor Clint Cointment said he began preparing a path to parish government two and a half years ago after being filled with frustration over traffic troubles, drainage, and no solid solutions.
"I've surveyed every part from the north, south, east and west, and I have a unique ability to get the job done," Cointment said.
Cointment, who grew up on the banks of New River, said he has a strategy to improve drainage through maintenance projects and get cars moving through the parish the first day on the job without raising taxes.
"We are going to start improving intersections to get traffic moving year one, and then we will work that into long-term projects such as Highway 73 and 42. You do that by using existing funding. You stop doing studies and studies, and you become efficient with the money you are given," Cointment said.
Ricky Diggs, a former Navy seaman, is also new to the political arena. He said he joined in the race for parish president to address similar issues. He said his work experience as a safety coordinator at chemical plants puts him in a unique position.
"Assess the problem, analyze the problem, develop the procedure, and then go into action," Diggs said.
The Modest native said he has long thought of a strategy to get rid of the gridlock.
"One plan is to formulate some streets that are one-way streets so traffic can all flow in the same direction. Another way is to increase the traffic size of the highway. We have a lot of turning lanes that can be a regular lane," Diggs said.
Chris Loar has served as a parish councilman for nearly eight years and is known for his dedication to recreation projects. Loar said he is primed to move into the parish president's seat. The former IT Director for Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady said he would use a similar structure to enhance living in the parish.
"I helped the biggest healthcare system in the state save millions of dollars using technology and refining business practices. Those are things I think I can apply directly to parish government operations," Loar said.
As for traffic, he is putting steam behind a two-part plan he calls "Safe Streets to School and A Faster Way to Work."
"It focuses on those routes the school buses take that are frankly too narrow right now and our children are unsafe. I want to work with the school board on widening those roads for the school buses. Secondly, A Faster Way to Work Plan that involves major intersection improvements, involves a new interstate connection," Loar said.
Kenny Matassa, who has been Gonzales City councilman for 19 years, said he is ready to implement his success in city government at the parish level. He said his approach has always been to be a team player.
"For example from the interstate to the new property on Loosemore Road, we put together a deal to have that four-laned. That's how you do things. You get together with the developer and the state and the city and we doing it. I can bring that to the parish," Matassa said.
Matassa said while funding can sometimes be a roadblock to easing congestion in one of the fastest growing parishes in the state, he has come up with a way to provide instant relief.
"I do believe we need to synchronize our red lights. We can put a man on the moon, but we can't synchronize lights? That's not right. We've got to get that done on Highway 44, Highway 30, and Highway 70. And, that can be done right away, I believe," Matassa said.
On October 24, voters will decide which man they believe has the right plan in place to keeping Ascension Parish moving.
Clarence Henry, Jr., a Democrat, is also running for the office. He was not available for an interview.