Christy and Pettit reflect on friendship, path toward Parish Council candidacy

District 7 candidate Kim Christy [r] is joined by District 10 challenger Jeff Pettit

At first glance Kim Christy and Jeff Pettit seem an unlikely pair.  Christy, a native of Ascension who spent three decades away as an FBI Special Agent after graduating from East Ascension HS and LSU; Pettit, a military brat who lived in bases around the globe before settling down in Baton Rouge, working in retail management until retiring to Ascension a decade-and-a-half ago.  Dissatisfaction with “the way things are” and “compelled to do something about it,” Christy and Pettit found they have a lot in common.

Neither was pleased with the voting record of their respective Parish Council representatives which, ultimately, led Kim Christy to challenge Aaron Lawler in District 7 and Jeff Pettit seeking to unseat John Cagnolatti in District 10.  Initially, though, it was a proposal to eliminate Ascension’s parish presidency which brought them together, eventually creating a social media page called Ascension Citizens Group.

Kim Christy:  During the initial introduction of the A Better Ascension movement there was a lot of discussion on Facebook.  I was open to learning more about the Parish Manager form of government.  Jeff advised me of the 501(c) (4) method of financing proposed changes to our Home Rule Charter.  The lack of transparency caused me to look at their proposed charter with a more analytical approach.  At the first public discussion during the Strategic Planning Meeting, I introduced myself to Jeff and we have been working together on issues since.

Jeff Pettit:  I was considering forming some type of legal entity and decided to have a Facebook page as the organizing mechanism for anyone who wanted to work in opposition to  A Better Ascension’s Movement.   The goal was to create a diverse group that represented the citizenry of Ascension Parish. Kim agreed to be actively involved and help me run the Facebook Page.  Subsequently, Kim and I have consulted each other on just about every other issue.

And the issues confronting Ascension Parish are many, most centering around insufficient infrastructure from roads, to drainage/flood mitigation and a pet project of Pettit’s, comprehensive sanitary sewer for the east bank.  Christy, whose activism came after Pettit’s, came to rely on him for information as those other issues cropped up.

JP:  In May 2018, Kim and I were at the Planning Commission meeting and watched the Commissioners ignore the fact that Highway 930 measured 17.3 feet wide and approve Jamestown II.  We talked among ourselves and when the Quail Creek Homeowners Association came on board we saw the opportunity to fight for positive change in Ascension Parish.

KC:  We moved forward with a lawsuit against the Parish Council and Planning Commission.  I still believe we had a winnable case, but there is a reason everyone says, “You can’t fight City Hall.”  The significant outcome is that the Parish Council passed new Traffic Impact Analysis to go along with Preliminary Plats for new subdivisions.

Since more rigorous traffic studies became law in Ascension Parish, only two subdivisions have been approved, both in October 2018 when Lake at West Creek and Highland Trace came before the Planning Commission.  Certificates of Occupancy cannot be issued in either development until substantial intersection improvements are accomplished, stalling the developments to the utter frustration of the developers.  Since October only Evelyn Estates has been approved but the conditions are so stringent that it is unlikely ever to be built.

JP:  The District 7 Councilman, who doubles as Transportation Committee chairman, stated at our community meeting that there were not enough votes to pass the TIA.  However, the TIA passed unanimously and I attribute that to the lawsuit.  The Parish Council knew everyone was watching.

May 2018, one more before TIA was enacted by a unanimous council: Aaron Lawler talking to (mostly) Benny Johnson’s constituents about Jamestown Crossing and a potential lawsuit.  Johnson was not present.

The lawsuit seeking to enjoin construction of Jamestown Crosstown was unsuccessful. 

KC:  And other issues include drainage, roads and Jeff is getting me caught up on sewer as we speak.  You know, I never thought I would find such subject matters interesting.  I enjoy the back and forth with Jeff because he has a depth of knowledge on so many topics concerning the Parish.

She and Pettit have been frequent speakers at Parish Council and committee meetings, both deciding to seek election late in 2018.

Kim Christy qualifying for the October 12 election

KC:  We both want the same outcome.  The best for the citizens of Ascension Parish.  Secondarily, we have mutual respect for each other.  We don’t always agree but we take the time to understand each other.  It would be an honor to serve with Jeff.

Jeff Pettit with Clerk of Court Bridget Hanna

JP:  And, I know, the political class that has run things forever say neither of us have a chance on Saturday.  Maybe so, but the residents of District 7 and all Ascension Parish lose if Kim Christy is not sworn in come January.