Editor’s note: This article is the seventh in a series of feature stories about the mayors in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes.
PORT VINCENT — Mayor Laura Savoy will turn in the keys to the village of Port Vincent in December, although her departure, she said, is bittersweet.
“I need to focus on personal issues,” said the mayor, who first served the community as the town clerk for four years prior to serving two terms as mayor, while working full time as a financial analyst with LSU Health Care Services Division.
“It’s going to be bittersweet because I so enjoyed it. I’m going to miss it,” Savoy said of the mayor’s job.
Savoy, a native of Denham Springs and a 1986 graduate of Denham Springs High School, moved to Port Vincent in 1990 after marrying a native of Port Vincent.
“I thought Denham Springs was the country,” Savoy laughed. “Until I moved to Port Vincent.”
But the tight-knit community of about 500 residents immediately embraced her, she said.
“Everyone comes together to help one another,” Savoy said. “When there’s an emergency or someone’s in need, they really come together.”
Although running for political office wasn’t a dream of Savoy’s from a young age, she said she’s always grown up with a sense of community and public service, characteristics that she attributes to her father, Wayne Sanders, who served as chief of operations for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office for years.
When Savoy’s son was born in 1999, she stayed home with him. In 2001, she took over as the village clerk and four years later she was elected mayor, taking office in January 2005.
Her reasons for wanting to take the helm were simple, she said.
“I wanted to serve my community, and knew there were grants out there” that could help the village, she said.
“I also knew I wanted the elders of the village to be proud of how the community was,” she said.
Perhaps her most exciting accomplishment is restoring the Port Vincent Community Center, which was once a one-room school house.
Savoy dedicated all proceeds from outstanding bench warrants to restore the building which had fallen into disrepair, she said.
Members of the community banded together to get the building finished. It now houses the Council on Aging meal site.
“I’m excited to have been a part of that,” Savoy said.
In addition, Savoy and her staff upgraded the water system and purchased a new gas generator for the village water well.
Residents also have gained a piece of history in the village. A replica of the “Jesse,” an old river tramp steamboat now sits in the village hall.
The real Jesse, which was based in Port Vincent, used to bring medicine and other merchandise from New Orleans before railroads replaced river transport, she said.
The village has also received numerous grants to upgrade the village hall and replace old police units with new ones, Savoy said.
That’s something Chief of Police Norris Hull is excited about.
“She has been an asset to the community and to the position of mayor,” Hull said of Savoy.
“Her job as mayor has been excellent,” he said. “The town has prospered under her.”
The village has a new emergency preparedness plan and has identified people with special needs to help them in case of an emergency, Savoy said.
Dealing with another safety issue, village officials worked with the Department of Transportation and Development to get a blinking caution light placed in Abbot’s curve, reducing the number of serious accidents, Savoy said.
In becoming a village official, she followed the tradition of the family of her husband, Don Savoy.
Her mother-in-law, Peggy Savoy, served as the village’s mayor for four terms.
Peggy Savoy’s father, Leo Cambre also served as an alderman for many years and was one of the first alderman appointed by the governor when the village became incorporated in 1952.
In 2000, Peggy Savoy retired, and her clerk, Mary Gordon, became mayor four years before Laura Savoy won the job.
While Laura Savoy said she will not run again for mayor in 2012, she doesn’t rule out another run for the position.
“You never know what the future holds,” she said.