Jefferson Parish president's race: Lagasse vs. Yenni - FOX 8, WVUE,, weather, app, news, saints

Jefferson Parish president's race: Lagasse vs. Yenni

“We knock doors, he knocks doors, we put up signs, he puts up signs.” (FOX 8 Photo) “We knock doors, he knocks doors, we put up signs, he puts up signs.” (FOX 8 Photo)

Drive neighborhood streets in Jefferson Parish and the yard signs erase any doubt that there is an upcoming election for parish president.

“We knock doors, he knocks doors, we put up signs, he puts up signs,” said Jefferson Parish Councilman-at-Large Elton Lagasse, one of the candidates.

"We've got a lot of great subdivisions in Jefferson Parish, we have to figure out ways to convert those subdivisions back into neighborhoods and I say that, look at Harrison Avenue, great concept of a neighborhood feel,” said Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, who is also seeking the parish presidency.

Lagasse. 75, touts his long record of leadership in the parish.

"I've led the school system, you know I've led this parish, I've been chairman of this council twice, I think I have the ability to do that. I have the knowledge of this parish. I know more about the parish of Jefferson Parish than anybody else in this race,” said Lagasse.

Yenni, 39, is the grandson of the late Jefferson Parish President Joe Yenni and the nephew of the late Michael Yenni, who was also parish president. Yenni, who is in his second term as mayor of Kenner, believes he has the right vision for the parish.

The two candidates' families have had friendly relationships for years. Yenni said he is not disappointed Lagasse announced after he did.

"A race is a race. It's about expressing your points of view and your changes, and I think, you know, I'm not here to talk about my opponent, but he's been there for the last 12 years, and I think changes need to be made,” Yenni said.

Both spoke of strong support for law enforcement agencies in Jefferson Parish and making sure they have the tools they need to continue fighting crime. Each candidates also promises to focus on economic development and code enforcement.

"Code enforcement, that's one of the biggest complaints I've heard traveling around Jefferson Parish, and I think some changes need to be made there,” Yenni said.

The aesthetics of some neighborhoods are in decline as residents skirt code rules.

"Quality of life is a big factor because quality of life affects crime,” Lagasse said.

"Definitely trying to finish this hospital debacle that was caused. I mean, anything that’s going to happen from here on out needs to be done for the betterment of the hospitals and the people of which those community hospitals serve, you know? I understand there was $450 million that was left on the table through these deals and what they've been doing and a lot of it was closed from the public. I understand a vote was taken away from the public,” Yenni said.

"Mr. Yenni doesn't know anything about the hospitals, he has no idea what we've been through with the hospital,” said Lagasse, who participated in the process as a member of the Parish Council.

West Jefferson Medical Center has a lease partner, LCMC, but East Jefferson Hospital has not nailed down a lease partner, something hospital leaders have said is needed to remain financially viable.

"I hope that the lease that’s in place right now with Children’s [LCMC], I hope that is a very good lease. I hope the direction that’s going in is correct and I'm very concerned about East Jefferson Hospital - a hospital my grandfather helped found. I want to make sure that hospital is very well protected,”Yenni said.

"I think we'll have that resolved within the next year,” Lagasse said when asked about the lack of lease partner for East Jefferson Hospital.

And on reviving Avondale Shipyards, which sits on the west bank of Jefferson Parish, both said they will endeavor to find new commerce for the site.

"I've listened and I've heard about Avondale for, far too long. We need to reach out to those owners and finally get a price and say, hey, let's try to sell it.  And could it be a shipping container yard, it could be a car manufacturing facility. It's got rail lines that run through it, it's sitting on the river. The possibilities are endless, but we need to do something and for too long nothing's happened,” Yenni said.

"Northrup Grummann has put Avondale on the market, okay, they've had several people come talk to us about building rail cars there and that's still in the process. The New Orleans Port Authority has talked to us about us about maybe taking that over and making that part of the New Orleans Port Authority, so that is a plus for us. I think we have some plans, I can’t get in to that right now,” Legasse said.

And both Lagasse and Yenni will work to make the parish more attractive to young professionals and young families.

Yenni said he has already done that in the city of Kenner.

“Exactly what we’ve done in this city, we attracted Coconut Beach, that’s a major draw for young people, a lot of young professionals play volleyball at the largest man-made sand volleyball complex in the United States, and those are the kinds of things we’ve got to start attracting to attract that younger generation,” Yenni said.

Lagasse said in the immediate future, bus service between Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish must be improved. He said young professionals may be discouraged from moving to Jefferson if they work in New Orleans because of traffic jams during rush hours.

“One thing we’re going to do is try to improve the transportation between Jefferson and Orleans Parish,” Lagasse said.

And both said they hope the campaign will not deteriorate into mud-slinging.

"I don't believe in negative campaigning. I've tried to always avoid that. If I have to defend myself, I will defend myself and I will defend the record that I have,” Yenni said.

"It depends on him. If they want to get nasty, I'll get nasty. I don't want to get nasty, I think I can run on my laurels of what I have been in the past,” Lagasse said.

Lagasse said he has put up $100,000 of his own money and he is in the race to the finish.

Qualifying begins Sept. 8.

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