Tammy Murphy, Kristen Pecararo, and Myra Sharpe's Letter to the Editor on the State Government Session
2018-2019 Leadership Tangipahoa Class at the Intralox facility.
Pictured from L to R: Roslyn Varnado (Tangipahoa Parish School System), Nick Gagliano (The Gagliano Group), Kellie Turnage (Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce), Eddie Hebert (Southeastern Louisiana University), Myra Sharpe (Hammond Daily Star), Representative Nicholas Muscarello, Jr., Angela Beadle (Tangipahoa Parish Government), Sibyl Cannon (Tangi Tourism), Amana Bennett (PJ's Coffee), Kathryn Edwards (Edwards & Stevens Law Firm), Tammy Murphy (Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce), Mark Verbois (Theta XI Alumni Association), Kristen Pecararo (Tangipahoa Parish Government), Abigail Comeau (Holly & Smith Architects), D'Ann Davis (Hampton Inn), Mandy Lee (First Guaranty Bank), Brian Walker (5 Stones Media), Kristen Hebert (Jani King), Jeff Jarreau (North Oaks Health System), Representative Steve Pugh, Kyle Johnson (Pelican State Credit Union)
On Tuesday, May 21st, 2019, the Tangipahoa Leadership class of 2019 visited the Louisiana State Capitol located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This impressive U.S. National Historic Landmark host the seats of government for the Louisiana State Legislature. The Louisiana State Legislature is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate but also holds the office of the Governor of Louisiana and other state offices. Standing proud at 450 feet tall with 34 stories, it holds the title of the tallest capitol in the United States. Once you get to the immaculate maintained gardens, which the state uses inmates currently serving in the system to take care of the 30 acres, you will see the great detail of dedication to Louisiana start there.
We were welcomed to the capitol by State Representative Steve Pugh and our detailed tour began. Guiding us through the chambers for the Louisianan House of Representatives and State Senate was not only eye opening about the daily in and outs of the in session/ out of session process but also a small glimpse into what one must truly give up to hold these leading roles in our government. As our tour went to the hall of past Governors, the story of the bullet holes, the remarkable Louisiana detail that was placed in many areas during the construction to remind one everyday of why they are there, Memorial Hall with the bronze plaque showing the parish boundaries and seats with Louisiana's industries and exports on the bottom and right above on the balcony holds the flags of the entities that have held dominion over Louisiana. All very impressive but not the story that I would want to write about our Capitol. All of what we witnessed can be found in great detail by anyone who could perform a quick Goggle search on our State Capitol. What can not be found is the rest of the story, a voice.
Every day of the work week, our State Capitol gives every single person the chance to be heard on their beliefs with what bill in in session. The voices of the lobbyist are highly valued and needed to be heard by our government. Our Senators and State Representatives value and need to hear all aspects of the whole picture to help them make their "Yes" or "No" decision on the bills. There are 3 different card colors to represent ones public opinion on passing or non-passing of the current bills. Red for "No", green for "Yes" and White for the opinion of the bill. How important these things are to our State and to a person to be given their Voice.
While walking the floors of the Capitol, seeing the amount of people there to lobby for or against what was going on that day was remarkable. These are things I would have never imagined associating with our State Capitol and all the impressive structure. One thing that stuck out the most was what our State Representatives and Senators endure on a daily basis. The amount of time they spend at the Capitol debating, working on resolutions, brainstorming with each other and all for the greater good of Louisiana as a whole. They have some of the most stressful, time consuming, low paying jobs and many have no idea what they do for our State. This eye-opening experience was well needed by our class for now, we can retell our story to gain more involvement and of course, show our pride of the structure of the entire Capitol, the facade and the hearts that fight for it.
Once our tour of the Capitol concluded with Representative Pugh, we were taken to visit with Governor John Bel Edwards in his office in the Capitol. He so graciously allowed time for questions and answers as he was preparing for the Louisiana National Guard Minuteman Statue dedication in Veterans Memorial Park to honor the men and women that proudly serve to defend our freedoms. He told us about HB 391 that would establish the Veterans First Business Initiative, an Angies List type of resource of Veteran owned businesses allowing citizens to search online for what type of business service they are seeking, and would receive a list of Veteran owned businesses that offer the requested service.
After meeting with the Governor, we headed to the Governor's Mansion for a tour and lunch. Upon arriving at the Governor's Mansion, you notice a garden along with a chicken coop and rabbit house. The Governor had mentioned to the class during our meeting that tending to his chickens is one way that he likes to decompress in the rare instances that he has down time. We were given a tour of the Mansion which has been the official residence of nine Governors since being built in 1963 under Governor Jimmie Davis. A painted mural of Louisiana symbolism greets you upon entering the beautiful Greek revival style home. The mural, which adorns the foyer walls, is the work of Latvian artist Auseklis Ozols. In the mural are representations of each of the First Families that have resided in the home since the year 2000 when first commissioned by Governor Mike Foster and his wife, Alice.
At the conclusion of our tour we were served a wonderful lunch in the Mansion dining room. During lunch we heard from the Governor's Chief of Staff, Mark Cooper. He spoke to us about how he came to be the Chief of Staff after living in California for many years along with what his role entails. The class found it interesting that Mr. Cooper is Republican, and told us that Governor Edwards specifically sought a Republican Chief of Staff to bring in someone with different viewpoints.
After lunch, we met with Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser in his office. This man is so full of life and love of our beautiful state and it beamed from him as he entered the room, both times. He caught us off guard so we had him go out and come back in so we could show him proper excitement.
Lt. Governor Nungesser passionately told us many stories about the treasures of Louisiana that bring visitors from as far as China, where General Claire Lee Chennault is a hero. America has a long history of heroes who were born in unremarkable circumstances and humble beginnings. Claire Lee Chennault was raised in rural Gilbert, Louisiana, was that kind of hero. In 1941 he created the Flying Tigers, a squadron of volunteer U.S. pilots. After the United States entered World War II, the group was incorporated into the regular U.S. Army Air Forces as the China Air Task Force (later reorganized as the 14th Air Force). The squadron had great success against Japanese forces. The Chennault Aviation and Military Museum is located in Monroe, Louisiana and is key spot to visit for many Chinese.
He is excited about the United States Women's National Team's path to the 2020 Olympic Games will go through Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, as it will host Team USA's FIVB Volleyball Intercontinental Olympic Qualification Tournament Aug. 2-4 at the CenturyLink Center.
Mr. Nungesser encourages private and public partnerships in maintaining State Parks. He strongly supports movies being filmed here. 9% of residents in Louisiana is influenced by this industry. He strives to have them identify the city they are filming to be in a background scene and asks that they leave something behind from the movie that can go into a museum.
By the end of his speech, I was truly encouraged to make my "Louisiana Staycation Bucket List". There is will take a few years, but well worth it.
Next, we went to the House of Representatives where Representative Nicholas "Nicky" Muscarello came to the balcony to speak with our group. As the new kid on the block, he explained many lessons learned and how it has made him more passionate to work more diligently for his constituents. He then announced our group from the floor and introduced House Resolution No. 172. It stated many "WHEREAS'" and "THEREFORE'S". The first line read, "To commend Leadership Tangipahoa for its leadership and community development efforts." I asked if this was given to all classes and was told this was the first time. We are humbly grateful to Rep. Muscarello.
We had our wrap up conversation on the way home and this is when the true passion of this group shines. One of the things shared that touched me deeply was from Kathryn Edwards, niece of Governor Edwards. I was not aware the staff serving us were from Angola Prison. They were extremely kind and gracious. She also shared that Governor Edwards and First Lady Donna served their staff for a Thanksgiving meal. This is truly an attitude of gratitude.
Tammy Murphy, Kristen Pecararo, and Myra Sharpe
Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2019