The trail to public office is long and full of contention

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2018

For weeks, fixing parks in the city was a topic of discussion during Picayune City Council meetings.

At times Council members argued about which parks should get repairs first, if at all.

Councilor Larry Breland was the first to bring the requests before the Council. His request was to apply for grant funding to conduct repairs to the smaller parks in the city. His request had a flaw; it did not include grant funding for Friendship Park, the city’s largest park.

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When Councilors Tammy Valente and Wayne Gouguet pointed out that the largest park was left out, a subsequent meeting included a request to seek funding for all parks. Again, the matter met with division, preventing progress from being made.

Then Councilor Tammy Valente wanted to add an item to the agenda to discuss repairs to Kid’s Kingdom at Friendship Park. But when City Manager Jim Luke called Valente to advise against adding that item to the agenda because it would cause more division, he accidentally left a message on her voicemail in which he said he intended to record the conversation.

Unrest ensued between the Council and city manager, when Gouguet and Valente voiced their concerns of being recorded by the city manager, a person under their employ. During the next meeting, Jim Luke publicly attacked Valente’s character, saying he didn’t trust her professionally, or personally. The morning of the day the Council meeting was to be held, a photo was posted on the city’s Facebook page featuring Jim Luke. The caption with the photo promised to address the long-standing issues Valente already brought up in a previous meeting.