It’s a long way from Jackson Avenue in Picayune to Mayor of Slidell, La.

Published 2:23 pm Friday, July 2, 2010

It’s a long way from South Jackson Avenue in Picayune to the top job in the corridors of government in Slidell.

Freddy Drennan, for the last eight years Slidell’s police chief, made the trek and was sworn in as Slidell’s mayor on Thursday.

Following his swearing in, the former Picayune and Slidell police chief, told the Item that growing up in Picayune, where everyone felt like family, helped “instill a lot of values in me and I still hold true to those values.”

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Drennan said he tries hard to live the way he was taught while growing up in Picayune.

After being sworn in, Drennan said he would try to bring economic development to Slidell by developing the area along the Bonfouca River “with the goal of making Slidell a destination location.”

He said he doesn’t want his grandchildren to have to move away from the area to find jobs.

Drennan’s father, L.D. Drennan, still lives at 204 S. Jackson Ave. in Picayune where Mayor Drennan was reared.

Drennan served in law enforcement for 40 years, and one time returned to Picayune to serve as Picayune’s police chief for seven years, before returning to the St. Tammany Parish, La., sheriff’s office to serve as a deputy sheriff.

Overall, he served in various capacities in law enforcement, mostly in St. Tammany Parish and Slidell, for 40 years.

Eight years ago, Drennan ran for Slidell Police Chief, which is an elected position in that city, and won. He ran twice unopposed. When former Slidell Mayor Ben Morris said he would not seek re-election because of term limits there, Drennan ran for mayor and won the in March. Morris also was a former Slidell police chief.

Drennan describes himself as a “people person,” and his father, speaking from his home on South Jackson Avenue, fully agrees.

“It does not surprise me what he did and what he has accomplished. He loves people; he loves helping people; and he loved police work,” said the senior Drennan in an interview with the “Item.” “He still comes up here all the time, and we go eat breakfast at Hardee’s.”

Former Picayune Mayor Woody Spiers, under whom Drennan served as police chief of Picayune, agrees: “He’s just a people person; he knows how to handle people and their problems. He was one of the best and we hated to see him leave Picayune and return to St. Tammany while I was mayor.” Drennan served as police chief here from 1989 to 1996.

How Drennan got the Picayune job is an interesting story.

Former Mayor Greg Mitchell hired Drennan on June 30, 1989, Mitchell’s last day in office of that term. When Spiers assumed office, he said there was discussion about Drennan, but on recommendation from councilman Kelly McQueen, the council kept Drennan on.

“Kelly knew Drennan and he (Drennan) had an excellent reputation. It turned out that former Mayor Mitchell did us a big favor because Drennan turned out to be a great police chief. His men loved him, and, of course, being a local boy helped, too. He was great at what he did; he was as great as they come; he really knew how to handle people problems,” said Spiers. Spiers served as mayor of Picayune from 1989 to 2001.

Drennan is 61. He was born in Picayune in 1949. He is a graduate of Picayune Memorial High School and attended Pearl River Community College. He became a welder and worked for Boh Brothers in Louisiana, but he got a job as a deputy sheriff under former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff George Broom.

He loved the work and went “straight up,” said his father, L.D.

His late mother was the former Idel Bounds, daughter of Charles Bounds.

“Our roots go deep here,” said his father.

L.D. Drennan came to Picayune with his parents in 1936-37 from the Seminary, Collins area of Covington County, Miss.,. L.D.’s parents ran a small cash’n’carry store here.

Mayor Drennan served for 25 years with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Dept., took a seven year break to serve as Picayune police chief under former Mayor Spiers, and then returned to Slidell to again serve with the sheriff’s department and to run for police chief and finally for mayor.

Drennan was sworn in on Thursday afternoon at the Northshore Harbor Center, along with newly elected Police Chief Randy Smith and new city council members Jay Newcomb, Sam Abney, Buddy Lloyd and Sam Caruso.

Drennan, like most newly elected officials, faces a tough task ahead. He is taking over a city budget that is down six percent from last year. Also, city sales tax collections are down. Drennan said last week he is hoping for a rebound.

During the swearing-in ceremony, Drennan acknowledged the budget difficulties.

“Tough economic times have become a stark reality to our city. The oil spill is a great concern and we will work diligently to meet this challenge productively,” Drennan said.

In addition, he has to worry about the oil spill that could cause problems for Slidell if it gets into Lake Pontchartrain.

After Interstate 59 was constructed in the early to mid-1960s, Slidell became one of the fastest growing cities in America as the residents of New Orleans  moved to the Northshore.