by christine morgan arceneaux
July 04, 2012
Editor’s note: This article is the fourth in a series of feature stories about the mayors in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes.
TICKFAW -- At 71, Tickfaw Mayor Anthony Lamonte shows no signs of slowing down.
“I enjoy it,” Lamonte said of his job as the village’s mayor.
Lamonte, who has served as mayor for the past 14 years, began his political career as an alderman 16 years prior to becoming mayor.
Lamonte said he ran for alderman to help secure basic necessities -- like water -- for the village in which he was born and reared.
After serving on the board, Lamonte defeated former mayor Sam Pigno and has been re-elected three more times since then.
“Nobody wants this job, because it’s not just the mayor, it’s maintenance,” Lamonte said.
But even at 71, Lamonte said he enjoys the work, and likes “to be in the dirt and getting greasy.”
Because the town has a limited number of employees, the former employee with Mount Airy Oil jumps in to help whenever he’s needed.
While he once did all of the town’s maintenance himself, Lamonte now has two employees who assist with everything from cutting grass along U.S. 51 to doing repairs on the town’s sewer system.
“They call me a hands-on mayor,” he said. I’m right there with them.”
Doing work himself helps pinch Tickfaw’s pennies.
Lamonte, who said he inherited debt when he first took office in January 1999, said he has managed to resolve all of it.
Lamonte reasoned years ago that he could save the village money by making repairs himself instead of hiring a contractor to do the work.
“We renovated this building,” Lamonte said of the village hall, which dates back to the 1950s. “We did all of the work except the floors.”
The move saved the village more than $50,000, and kept it debt free, he said.
“I treat the town’s money like my own,” Lamonte said.
While he has served the village for the past 14 years, Lamonte’s legacy was almost short lived. During his first campaign for mayor, Lamonte’s first wife, Carol Cameron, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was then that he decided to only serve one term, but his wife died on Dec. 10, 1999, before he was elected.
Lamonte remarried Laura Martinez 10 years ago.
The hands-on mayor was born and raised in Tickfaw.
One of nine children, Lamonte was born to strawberry farmers, and still remembers covering the ground with straw instead of plastic to keep out weeds.
“Anything my father thought he could sell, we raised,” Lamonte said.
As he reminisced about his youth, Lamonte said he missed “the quietness of the town.”
“We knew everybody,” Lamonte recalled. “Everybody helped each other.”
Since Lamonte took office, the village has purchased land and built police and fire stations, Lamonte said.
He said it has added a mechanic shop, three tractors for cutting grass, two service trucks, a dump truck, a utility truck and a backhoe to the town’s inventory.
Tickfaw has purchased several generators, which will operate the village hall building, the police department, the main water well and sewage plants in the event of an emergency, the mayor said.
The village has also purchased 11 lots located off U.S. 51 where the village hall building now sits, put in a new sewage system and has made improvements to the water system, he said.
“We’re working to get new businesses in town,” Lamonte said, adding that his priority is to bring a supermarket to Tickfaw.
He is also in the process of getting another water well for the town, and said he hopes to add fire hydrants to dead end streets.
Lamonte said he plans to run for re-election in 2012, as long as he is healthy.
“If I had anything to do with it, he’d be mayor again,” said longtime Tickfaw resident Bill Rooney. “I have no complaints about how this village is being run.”
Lamonte is committed to an “open door” policy and said that residents are free to talk with him whenever they need him.
At the public meetings, he welcomes public input, and tells residents they have three minutes to “brag or gripe.”
“He’s willing to help you any time you need help,” Rooney said. “He’s a good man.”
“We do whatever we can do to help people,” Lamonte said. “If it means staying here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I’ll do that.”