Two challengers, incumbent in race for Westwego council

Two political newcomers are hoping to unseat Westwego Councilman Larry Warino in Saturday’s election, and they have very different reasons for seeking the position.

Warino has served as the councilman for District 5 for the past eight terms after unseating previous councilman Garrison Toups. Although Toups is running again, he is seeking the District 4 seat because of a change in the city’s council district boundaries.

Warino said he wants another term to shepherd projects he’s begun to completion. He discussed roughly $160,000 in street resurfacing and changing out water lines as examples.

“That was a goal of mine to get that taken care of in my district,” he said.

Warino said Westwego is facing serious decisions about how to handle its water and sewer plants. Warino has been a critic of the water plant but said he believes things could improve with a new package plant being discussed for the facility.

He said city residents need to look for an experienced leader, not someone who would have to learn the job. He said he’s been active in the city for years and understands what Westwego needs.

“I just think my experience and leadership and my knowledge … is miles apart from my opponents,” Warino said. “You’ve got to understand the issues.”

Warino is being challenged by newcomers Courtney Watts-Reyes and John Poche, both of whom have no prior political experience.

Watts-Reyes said she decided to run for the position because she was tired of watching Westwego grapple with the same problems every year without seeking new ideas. Watts-Reyes said the city has had persistent problems with water pressure, blighted properties and its public utilities but the current politicians haven’t made improvements.

“I just thought it was really time that the residents’ concerns be addressed,” she said.

She would like to find a way for the city to help some of its senior citizens make improvements to their homes instead of just citing them for code violations. She suggested linking students who need community service hours with seniors who need work done.

Watts-Reyes said she’s honest and dedicated and can work with elected officials even if they disagree on issues.

“What I think sets me apart is really I care about the citizens of Westwego. I’m not doing it for a title,” she said.

Poche also said he’s not looking for a title. A retired crane operator, Poche said he decided to run for City Council because it seemed like it might be an interesting position.

“I just thought maybe it might be a thrill or something for me to do,” he said.

Poche added that he would need to learn more about exactly how the city’s finances work before he came up with a plan for his district.

He said he does not see any huge problems in the area but is active in the community and would be ready and willing to act on any concerns residents bring to him.

“I really don’t know what my government does in the city of Westwego or where the money comes from,” he said.