Questions we’d like Rick Webre to answer

Rick Webre during Hurricane Barry

The second of four candidate forums was held on Saturday at Pelican Point’s clubhouse with early voting for the October 12 election three weeks away. Four candidates for Ascension Parish President, six questions, and little deviation from their respective paths charted beforehand…what did we learn?

Rick Webre offered the most provocative statement of the evening, unsurprising given his late entry into the contest and the need to gain traction.  In response to a question concerning the candidates’ education, Webre began with advice from his granddaddy; “One pound of common sense is worth ten pounds of education” before attacking Ascension Parish Government…again.

Citing “a dysfunctional chain of command” and “a lack of integrity in parish government,” Webre went on to say:

“And that’s what I need to change.  I will freely admit; I am the worst politician in this race.  I am.

But, look, what I want to do is; I want to bring integrity back to parish government.  That’s the key.  If you don’t trust parish government…why would anybody not trust parish government?

What I want to do is, I want to stop the downward spiral that we have in management systems in parish government.”

Why would anybody not trust parish government, indeed.  Too bad Webre did not answer his rhetorical question since, 13 years in parish government, he’s probably got some keen insight.  While he’s at it, please answer the following:

  • When was integrity lost, and who lost it?
  • What, exactly, will Rick Webre do to bring it back; and why didn’t he attempt to do so as one of Kenny Matassa’s top lieutenants?
  • As to “the downward spiral in management systems,” see above.

Try as he might, Rick Webre can never escape the fact that he was a prominent member of Matassa’s administration (and Tommy Martinez/Ronnie Hughes before that) for three years, seven months, and eight days.  On August 8, the last day to qualify for the October 12 election, Webre explained his epiphany (and his candidacy):

“I can no longer support the current parish president; nor can I support anyone he endorses for that position…”

What was the tipping point, that final straw that pushed Webre into early retirement and onto the ballot?  It’s a question Webre has evaded, because there is no good answer.  His boss was indicted in early 2017 after bribing a Gonzales city council candidate in mid-2016; but Webre’s confidence in Matassa was not shaken to the point of early retirement by that.

In his initial campaign announcement Webre offered a thinly-veiled criticism of Matassa’s predecessors.  He claimed to know:

“…how poorly parish government is lead (sic), managed, and resourced. I know what parish government looks like behind the curtains. I have lived it for nearly thirteen years and I know that I can provide it with the competent and professional leadership that it deserves.”

Which begs the question, why now?  Why not ten years ago, five years ago?  Why didn’t Rick Webre expose these issues before the opportunity to seek Ascension’s highest office presented itself?

Ascension Parish Presidents (l-r): Tommy Martinez (1993-99), Harold Marchand 2000–03), Ronnie Hughes (2004-07), Martinez again (2008-15), Kenny Matassa (2016-present))

Is Webre banking on some council backing?  He would not be the first…

During an earlier forum Webre claimed “an excellent working relationship with the Ascension Parish Council over the last 13 years, and I want to enhance that as Parish President…

I need to put a staff in place that’s smarter than I am.  I need to put a staff in place that’s capable of advising the council on what they need to do to pass ordinances that affect growth.”

But Murphy Painter, who has actively campaigned since November, staked claim to the council’s support early on.  Why would either want it?

Implied in Webre’s promise to put a capable staff in place is the message that the current administration/staff is incapable.  This is a case of the candidate wanting to have his cake, and eat it too; a mixing of his message to boot.  In his announcement Webre wrote:

“I found that the only successful way in which to incorporate positive, ethical and needed changes were to take the initiative myself. Working with the employees of Ascension Parish Government was a privilege…”

Where does Webre draw the line between “the employees” with whom he was privileged to work, and the staff incapable of advising the council?  And why, after 13 years of watching “how poorly parish government is lead (sic), managed, and resourced” is he finally taking the initiative to incorporate needed change?