17 applicants vie for Registrar of Voters position

Decades in office, Robert Poche retired as Ascension Parish Registrar of Voters recently, leaving vacant the position to be filled by the parish’s “governing authority,” i.e. the Parish Council.  Procedure mandated by Louisiana Revised Statutes 18:51.  Mandated qualifications, not so onerous as evidenced by the fact that 17 individuals applied for the position, are set forth in R.S. 18:52.

Before taking office the appointee must be a registered voter in Ascension who “shall possess at least one of the following at the time of appointment:

(a) A baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution and two years of full-time, professional work experience.

(b) An associate degree from an accredited institution and four years of full-time, professional work experience.

(c) Seven years of full-time, professional work experience.

(d) Five years of full-time employment in a registrar’s office in Louisiana.

The statute defines professional work experience as “experience in an occupation which requires specialized and theoretical knowledge usually acquired through college training or through work experience and other training which provides comparable knowledge.”  (Whatever that means).

Below are the 17 applicants, with condensed biographical information culled from his/her resume’.

Paphine Bajoie-Gonzales.  Bajoie is currently employed by First City Court in New Orleans for First City Court where she has been an “Intake Clerk” since 1994.  She is a graduate of Destrehan HS who attended, but did not graduate from, Southern University.

Laura Baragona-Prairieville.  Baragona is a Paraprofessional with Ascension Parish Schools (since 2015).  She graduated from Louisiana Tech (BA in Education) with a Master Degree in Education from LSU.  She is a alumnus of Broadmoor HS, Class of 1972.

Shanie M. Bourg-Gonzales.  Bourg is currently a Commissioner of Elections with Louisiana’s Secretary of State since 2009.  She earned dual degrees, Psychology/Information Technology attending LSU and University of Phoenix after graduating from Woodlawn HS.

Melody H. Christy-Gonzales.  Christy recently retired as Administrative Assistant to Judge Holdridge (1st Circuit Court of Appeals) after a lengthy stint with Ascension’s Clerk of Court (1976-2012).  She is a graduate of East Ascension HS with a Delta College degree in Stenography.

Barbara Duhe-Gonzales.  Duhe was the Director of Central Services with the City of Gonzales for 34 years before retiring in 2006. She is a graduate of East Ascension HS, then Spencer College.

Paul C. Gibson, Sr.-Gonzales.  Gibson retired from St. Charles Parish Schools in 2019 after a lengthy career, rising through the ranks to become Director of Human Resources.  He graduated Southern University in 1985 with a BS (subsequently earning two unspecified Masters Degrees).

Michael D. Heath-St. Amant.  Heath is currently employed as Facilities & Property Manager at RPCC.  He graduated from East Ascension Academy, then Southeastern Louisiana University before entering the workforce in 1989.  He was the Educational Coordinator at Hunt’s Correctional from 1995-2008.

Isaac Jackson, Jr.-Gonzales.  Jackson, from Plaquemine originally, earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Southern University.  He worked for various state agencies before challenging incumbent Jeff Landry for Louisiana Attorney General in   He opposed Jeff Landry for AG in 2019.

Monica R. Jackson-PrairievilleJackson has been a Deputy Tax Collector with APSO since 2014, employed by the Sheriff’s Office since 2005.  She is a graduate of Redemptorist HS with a BA in Sociology from LSU.

Leroy Laiche-Prairieville.  Laiche graduated from East Ascension HS, then LSU with undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice, then Southern University for law school.  A practicing attorney since 1989, he was employed by Vulcan Chemical from 1980-86.

Debra Larks-Gonzales. Larks has been employed as a Level 7 supervisor with the US Postal Service since May 2020, before which she moved around quite a lot without any job requiring skills easily translatable to the Registrars’ position.  She graduated from East Ascension HS and Baton Rouge School of Computers.

Brady Moran-St. Amant.  Moran has been employed with LWCC since 2017 with a work history going back to 2015.  He is a graduate of St. Amant HS and LSU with BA in General Studies.

Charla Moran-St. Amant.  Moran has been employed, two separate stints, with Ascension Parish Schools since 2005 (four years of self-employment beginning in 2008), most recently as a Systems Applications Analyst.  She is a graduate of St. Amant HS and LSU with Accounting Degree.

Murphy Painter-Gonzales.  Currently a Consultant with Sundogs, LLC, Painter claims 30 years’ experience in Public Administration.  14 years over Alcohol and Tobacco Control, three years with the Attorney General in Investigations, 17 years with APSO topping out as Chief Criminal Deputy.  He graduated from East Ascension HS, obtained an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement from Southeastern in 1974, then a Masters in Public Administration from LSU in 2002.

Joanne Reed-Sorrento.  Reed has 20 years’ experience with Louisiana’s Secretary of State, employed as Director of Voter Registration from 1997-2017 after a decade as Clerk 3/Officer Supervisor with East Baton Rouge’s Registrar of Voters.  Reed returned to EBR in 2017 as Chief Deputy Registrar.  A graduate of Glen Oaks HS, without a college degree (though Reed completed the Election Courses provided by Auburn University).

Rhonda Washington-Dunbar-Gonzales.  Dunbar retired from Ascension Parish Schools as a Librarian after 37 years in 2011.  She has been out of the workforce since working as Judge Alvin Turner’s Office Manager for two months in 2012.  A graduate of East Ascension HS, Dunbar earned a BS in Elementary Education from Southern University, then a Library Sciences/Media Technology Degree from LSU.

Elizabeth Williams-Gonzales.  Williams was Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters in Ascension at the end of a 35-year career in 2009.