Lisa Nelson named chairwoman of the St. Martin Parish Council
Lisa Nelson made history Tuesday.
The District 2 parish councilwoman was named the first black female to lead St. Martin Parish’s governing body, and she heads up that body’s first all-black slate of officers.
Craig Gregory of District 7 was elected vice chairman, and Jason Willis of District 3 was named temporary presiding officer, a third-in-command who steps in if both the chairman and vice chair are out.
All three were elected unanimously at the St. Martin Parish Council’s first meeting of 2014.
Outgoing Chairman Dean Doré turned over the gavel after four years, saying he was honored to have represented the council and the parish. He expressed his gratitude to his fellow councilmen, to Parish President Guy Cormier and the staff, and to his predecessor, Mike Huval, whom he said was especially gracious in showing him the ropes.
Huval is now in the state Legislature.
Nelson had been serving as vice chairman.
Though nominated, the previous temporary presiding officer, Carroll Delahoussaye, declined the position, saying it was time for “new blood.”
“I didn’t see this coming,” quipped Willis, who was then elected to the post.
“You can expect to be busy,” Cormier told Willis, noting that Nelson will also be president of the Louisiana Police Jury Association, an organization representing and supporting parish councils and police juries, the two forms of parish governing bodies in the state.
And Rev. Gregory also has lots of irons in the fire, Cormier said.
Gregory is active in numerous professional organizations, including the National Democratic County Officials (NDCO) where he is on the board of directors. Gregory has also signaled his intention to run for a seat in the Legislature.
Noting his humble beginnings, Gregory said he hopes his increased profile on the parish council will “serve as a testimony” for youngsters striving to overcome disadvantage.
“It’s not over till it’s over,” he said.
There have been African-Americans at the helm of the parish governing body – including Nelson’s father, Thomas Nelson, now mayor of St. Martinville.
The late Sydnie Mae Durand was the first woman to lead the parish, as president of the police jury.