The Domino Effect: Which way will the Parish Council fall?

By J. Q. Collectif/Opinion


Natchitoches Parish Council

I read all of the coverage on the Parish Council meeting that took place last Monday night and my level of apprehension has grown with each day. There are a few things that should be blatantly obvious to anyone who pays attention to the Parish government.

First, if the residents of the Parish were able to grade the performance of Mr. Nick Verret as Director of Public Works, he’d fail miserably.  The Council members point out on a regular basis that they have no control over Parish employees, as well they shouldn’t.  Parish residents, however, do.  They can call for Mr. Verret’s resignation.  It’s your tax dollars that pay his salary.  Stop accepting excuses and demand better.

Second, it is quite obvious that the Parish Council is being hijacked by the three former Police Jurors who now hold Council seats. During the meeting, Councilwoman Patsy Ward Hoover admitted to filing a complaint with the Attorney General’s office against Council Chairman Russell Rachal. While Mrs. Hoover has every right to contact the A. G. office, you should be asking what her motive was.  The complaint pertained to Mr. Rachal removing an item placed on the Agenda by Mrs. Hoover and alleged that Mr. Rachal was trying to keep the public from having input at the meetings.  If these were Mrs. Hoover’s concerns, why did she not first seek an opinion from the office of the District Attorney, their legal counsel?  Perhaps Mrs. Hoover thought the investigation by the A. G. would cause Mr. Rachal to throw his hands up in the air and call it quits.

If that was her motive, the tactic backfired on her.  Mr. Rachal, after being told by the D.A.’s office that he would have to seek outside counsel as it appeared the complaint was against him and not the whole Council, hired an attorney and filed a response to the investigation.  That response resulted in the investigation being closed. The A.G.’s office also informed Mr. Rachal that their investigation involved all of the Council members as a whole body.  Because of that, Mr. Rachal is entitled to reimbursement for the legal fees he advanced defending the Council.  That means that we, the taxpayers, are on the hook for reimbursing Mr. Rachal.

The meeting concluded with Coucilpersons Paige, Bedgood and Hoover adjourning the meeting after refusing to go into executive session. Executive session matters are discussed behind closed doors; without the public; and there is no official record of what gets discussed. So, why did the three of them refuse to address the issue at hand?

I believe Coucilpersons Paige, Bedgood and Hoover have all expressed their desire to see this Parish fail because they cannot recognize their value as members of the Council. They seem to forget that they represent the people and not themselves.  Since Natchitoches Parish changed its form of government, at least three other parishes have either completed or begun the process of changing their forms of government.  Perhaps the problem isn’t our form of government but rather the fact that they have no vision for being part of the solution!

Finally, there is a very important tax initiative on the ballot this fall.  Councilman Doug de Graffenried asked a crucial question last Monday night, “When is the highway barn going to have to close?”  In case you weren’t paying attention, he was raising a red flag.  Two years of federally declared disasters have pushed the Highway Department’s budget to the brink.  Mr. Verret responded with some confidence that he felt that the department would be able to remain open through the end of the year.

My response to that is, “That’s great, but what about 2017 and the years that follow?” Anyone who knows anything about budgets knows that you must have money in reserve to account for unexpected expenses and gaps in receivables.  The Highway Department is funded by ad valorem tax revenues.  Those revenues don’t get deposited on January 1st and they don’t get deposited in a lump sum. And, it would be extremely foolish to assume that the Parish won’t experience another weather related disaster in the coming months or years.  Without another source of revenue for the Highway Department, the roads will continue to deteriorate; industry will continue to stay away from the Parish; and fire, police and medical response workers will not be able to respond to emergencies in a timely manner.  Our road system is dying and we, the residents of Natchitoches Parish, are accountable for its revival.

The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this submission. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal.  If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to

Northwestern State cheerleaders win three first place awards at competition

NSU cheerleaders
Northwestern State University’s cheerleading squad won three first place awards and two second place awards at the Universal Cheerleaders Association College Spirit Camp held at Texas State University – San Marcos.

NSU won first place in Fight Song Competition, Band Chant Competition and Overall Game Day Champs. The squad won second place in sideline competition and cheer competition. NSU also received the Game Plan Award, recognizing a team from each division that demonstrates they are the most prepared for the upcoming season. Northwestern State was fourth overall in mascot competition.

Members of Northwestern State’s award-winning cheerleading squad are, front from left, Annalise Austin of Winnfield, Jasmine Ealy of Little Elm, Texas, Avery Monrose of Lafayette, Lakyn Ward of Leesville, Sarah Gandy of Monroe, Bailey Hargrove of West Monroe, Courtney Bergeron of Houma, Lisa King of Shreveport and Stacy Fusell of Pineville, and back row left to right, Ontrez Shyne of Minden, Kody Patterson of Haughton, Kevaun McCall of Marrero, Eli Durr of Shreveport, Jacob David of Arnaudville, DeMarquise Edwards of Lake Charles, Austin Averitt of Bossier City, Joe Bradley of Shreveport, Trey Latino of Hammond, Justin Jenkins of Mansfield, Qualantre Jackson of Lafayette, Dan Nguyen of Haughton and Dontavius Chambers of Shreveport.

Youngsters learn programming and more at Robotics Camp


Youngsters ages 7-12 are learning how to power and program their own robots during a workshop hosted by Northwestern State University’s Department of Engineering Technology. The camp introduces concepts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and are taught in the labs used by engineering technology students.

From left are Arwen Brown, Emorie Mathews, Duncan Brown and Cameron Brunson. The annual program is supported by the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce Education Fund and is free to participants.

“Murder Ahoy” cast will take audience on a high seas adventure


Northwestern Summer Theatre will perform “Murder Ahoy” July 27 – 30 and Aug. 3 – 6 on the A.A. Fredericks Auditorium stage. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and a four-course dinner is served by members of the cast starting at 6 p.m. The cast is Hector Pena, in front, and back right to left, Sean Grady, Anna Birbiglia, Gerald Williams, Jay Canova and Erika Jarlock.

Tickets are $30 and reservations are required. For more information or to make reservations, call (318) 357-4218. The show is appropriate for all ages.

In “Murder Ahoy,” Captain Red Beard the pirate has been spotted sailing these waters, and no one is safe while he’s around. He’ll kidnap your women for ransom, and Shanghai your men when he needs a crew. But the scuttlebutt has it that there’s talk of mutiny among the crew. The old Captain might want to have that parrot on his shoulder watch his back, or there’ll be more than 16 men on that deadman’s chest in this boisterous buccaneer mystery!

The audience can take an active role in determining who committed the crime. Audience members can “bribe” the cast for clews to solving the murder. Scott Burrell is the director.

“Versatility is one thing that makes a good actor,” said Canova, a senior theatre major from Marrero. “Shakespeare wrote so beautifully, using words that are poetic yet simple. You have to learn different things to be a good all around actor.”

Canova is a graduate of the Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts. Deciding to stay in Natchitoches for college was an easy decision for him.

“I came to Northwestern because it has the best undergraduate theatre program in the state,” said Canova. “I have a great community of friends who are passionate about what they do. That drew me to the program and kept me here.”

State Bond Commission – Capital Outlay for Natchitoches Parish


The State Bond Commission met July 21. On the meeting agenda was a resolution setting forth the official intent by the State Bond Commission to reimburse Lines of Credit expenditures with proceeds of General Obligation Bonds for requests submitted by the Office of the Commissioner, Division of Administration, Office if the Governor, for the granting of Lines of Credit and authorization to issue General Obligation Bonds in the amount of $964,775,105 for projects contained in Priority 1 of the current Capital Outlay Act (Act 16 of the 2016 2nd Extraordinary Legislative Session) and listed in the attached exhibit.

Priority 1 cash lines of credit recommendation:

  • NSU: Multi-purpose assembly center, planning and construction $76,200 (Bond sale amount $76,100)
  • NSU: Parking lot repairs, planning and construction $64,300 (Bond sale amount $33,900)
  • LSMSA: HVAC issues in Caddo Hall, planning and construction $471,100 (Bond sale amount $458,900)
  • LSMSA: New dormitory building, planning and construction $1,257,900 (Bond sale amount $295,900)
  • LSMSA: Stair railings – addressing code violations, planning and construction $133,200 (Bond sale amount $11,900)
  • Natchitoches Parish: Natchitoches Parish Office of Community Services addition and renovation $6,000 (Bond sale amount $6,000)
  • Natchitoches: South Natchitoches drainage improvements including adjacent roadwork, planning and construction $39,000
  • Natchitoches: Texas and Pacific Railway Natchitoches Depot redevelopment $195,000
  • Natchitoches Council on Aging: Reconstruction and renovations to Natchitoches Parish Council on Aging Office and Activities building, planning and construction $7,700 (Bond sale amount $6,700)
  • Natchitoches Council on Aging: Reconstruct Natchitoches Parish Council on Aging Activities building, planning and construction $115,800 (Bond sale amount $112,800)
  • Natchitoches Communications District: Natchitoches Parish Emergency Communications District, planning and construction $2,800,000
  • Natchitoches Veterans Memorial Park Commission: Natchitoches Veterans and Memorial Park, planning and construction $13,500 (Bond sale amount $13,500)

NSU fishing team to participate in Bassmaster College Series National Championship


Members of the Northwestern State University fishing team participating in the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Green River Lake in Campbellsville, Kentucky are, from left, Aaron Belgard, Logan Laprarie, Justin Cooper and John Ledet.

Two teams from Northwestern State University will be competing in the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Green River Lake in Campbellsville, Kentucky July 28-30.

The teams of John Ledet and Justin Cooper and Aaron Belgard and Logan Laprarie will represent NSU. Ledet and Cooper are coming off a win at the Bassmaster College Series Wild Card on Lake Murray in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Belgard and Laprarie also had an outstanding tournament finishing a strong third.

Eighty-nine teams will compete for two days with the top 12 advancing to the third day. The top four teams will advance to the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket with the eight competitors going head to head. The winner will earn a spot in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Conroe in Texas next March.



Northwestern State hires Chievous as director for student-athlete development

Jasmine Chievous_6915
Jasmine Chievous has been hired as Northwestern State’s Director for Student-Athlete Development, director of athletics Greg Burke announced Friday.

Chievous’ hiring is subject to approval by the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, which oversees NSU.

Cheivous spent the previous two-plus years as Troy’s Life Skills and Academic Coordinator, where she served as the academic coordinator for women’s basketball, women’s soccer and men’s tennis.

She developed and supervised the life skills program as well.

Other duties included advising the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, conducting the athletic department’s first full awards ceremony, offering career counseling and was the department liaison for the regional and state Special Olympics.

Chievous spent more than two years at the University of Missouri, where she earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

Her work experience as an intern then a graduate assistant included serving as the academic coordinator for basketball, volleyball, track and field, cross country, wrestling and swimming and diving at different points in her tenure. Those duties included helping at-risk student-athletes with course selection, time management and study strategies.

A Provost Scholar at Fisk University, Chievous earned a Spanish degree in 2010, also serving as an administrative assistant to the athletic director.

Chievous was an adjunct instructor in psychology at Troy. Other professional opportunities include being a committee member for the National Association of Student-Athlete Development and a member of the National Association for Athletic Academic Advisors.

Family funds scholarship in honor of Johnny Antoon


The Johnny Antoon Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament was coordinated by Bruce Primm, Harry Garsee and Jill Bankston from the NSU Foundation office. The scholarship was created in 2008 and has over $80,000.00 to provide scholarships to NSU students. There are currently five scholarship recipients.

Merle Antoon said, “The recipients are chosen by our family and it is based on their financial need and the willingness to overcome obstacles in order to better themselves. All of our recipients are involved in extra-curricular organizations within Northwestern State University.”

Danielle Antoon said, “The tournament was just what Dad would’ve wanted. He loved Northwestern State University and giving back to others. Dad would always check in with our recipients and encourage them to never give up and to keep on studying, reminding them that one day their hard work would pay off. Our family is humbled by the support this scholarship has received and we look forward to awarding students in the future.”

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Runners cross the finish line at Steel Magnolia Shuffle


The Service League of Natchitoches hosted the Steel Magnolia Shuffle July 16.The run began and ended at the Prudhomme-Roque house and the route led runners through the downtown area. Proceeds will be used to promote community service in Natchitoches. Cheerleaders at St. Mary’s Catholic School volunteered their time to hold directional signs and cheer the runners on along the race route.

1 mile

1 mile: CortNassif – 2nd place, Andrew Kautz – 1st place and Peter Kautz – 3rd place

12 and under 5K

12 and under 5K: Jiaqu Yi – 1st place and Karagan – Hopkins 2nd place


Female 5K

Female 5K: Liz Lewing – 1st place, Abigail Gardner – 2nd place and Kelli Todd – 3rd place

Male 5K

Male 5K: Justin Hopkins – 1st place, Daniel Urnutia- 2nd place and GabrieFerreyro – 3rd place

Simmons elected to CCNE board


Dr. Pam Simmons, director of Northwestern State University’s College of Nursing, has been elected to the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) board, the premier accrediting organization for nursing programs.

Elected by national ballot of accredited nursing programs, Dr. Simmons will represent faculty on the national board.

“I am honored and very excited about the opportunity to serve in this new capacity. “CCNE serves the public interest by assessing and identifying programs that engage in effective educational practices. CCNE represents excellence and I am delighted to be a part of such a organization. As a Northwestern faculty, I know we are all about excellence in our nursing programs and having CCNE accreditation helps us maintain that focus and accountability.”

Simmons has served in a number of CCNE roles since she was trained as a CCNE evaluator in 1996 and for the past several years, has served as team leader during on-site visits. In addition, she currently has the privilege of serving on the Accreditation Review Committee (ARC) with a group of nursing professionals from across the nation.

“While I have never been a dean, I do believe my experience as the senior director for the College of Nursing, working closely with the dean, has provided me ample opportunity to understand the administrative side of things while remaining cognizant of the faculty role as I continue to teach in both graduate and undergraduate courses,” she said. “Those experiences at NSU and with CCNE should hopefully serve as a solid foundation as I begin in this new role as a member of the Board of Commissioners.”

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is an autonomous accrediting agency contributing to the improvement of the public’s health. CCNE ensures the quality and integrity of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education programs and nurse residency programs. As a voluntary, self-regulatory process, CCNE accreditation supports and encourages continuing self-assessment by nursing programs and supports continuing growth and improvement of collegiate professional education and nurse residency programs.

NSU also has three additional faculty members who act as evaluators for CCNE. Those are Dr. Norann Planchock, Dean Emeritus; Dr. Dana Clawson, dean of the College of Nursing and School of Allied Health, and Katheryn Arterberry, associate professor.