Louisiana State Senator Gerald Boudreaux of Lafayette is our guest. Representing Senate District 24, he serves as Vice-Chair of Local and Municipal Affairs, and on the Finance and Health & Welfare Committees of the Senate. His District encompasses most of St. Landry Parish, northern parts of Lafayette Parish (where Boudreaux lives), and the region near Breaux Bridge in St. Martin Parish. Sen. Boudreaux is serving in his second term as Senator.
He is well-known for his long tenure with Lafayette’s Park and Recreation Department, serving as Director for 35 years. He got his start with the department as a freshman at USL and retired in June 2020 after having served under six Lafayette mayors. Boudreaux is proud of the growth of the department over the years, providing much-needed services through a system of connected and strategically placed infrastructure which grew according to ongoing needs assessments to determine how the community could be best served.
Steep budget cuts including the closure of four recreation centers, all of which are located in North Lafayette, have stirred deep controversy in the local community. It’s not only young people who have been affected by the current budget cuts affecting North Lafayette facilities, but also services to the elderly community as the Greenhouse Senior Center and the Rosehouse Senior Center have been shuttered. Boudreaux explained that the current millage, paid only by the City of Lafayette, is still at the level as when it was established in 1961 when Lafayette only had five parks, two recreation centers, and one municipal golf course. Today, that millage is expected to cover operations of 1800 acres of park grounds which encompass 35 park (28 in the city of Lafayette), three golf courses, ten recreation centers, two tennis centers, five swimming pools, and a campground.
Today with the advent of two separate city and parish councils, there is a large split in belief as to who can or should pay for services. Many families rely upon the parks system for its amenities, especially the areas of North Lafayette where transportation can be an issue for people looking for healthy outlets for recreation. Boudreaux challenges the parish council to be creative and establish a funding source to enable services to continue. When Lafayette Parish took gambling off the table 22 years ago as a source of revenue, a potential source of funding for parish services also dried up. Yet, “for those who want to gamble, they will. People travel to St. Landry and St. Martin parishes” for gambling outlets. “How is Lafayette going to generate revenue to pay for parish needs? The City of Lafayette cannot continue to sustain this effort,” Boudreaux says. Perhaps it is time to revisit this issue and other ways to fund services that offer the quality of life amenities that enhance our community.
Sen. Boudreaux shared his thoughts on how law enforcement officials were never consolidated under the Lafayette Parish 1996 consolidation plan. “You have to wonder, did someone have a crystal ball then to see that it would never work? Maybe that’s where we are….still trying to put a square peg into a round hole. With annexation by the cities, it’s been a ‘grab and take. There are only little pockets of parish property remaining.”
A Northside High graduate, Sen. Boudreaux was a point guard on the school’s basketball team and captain of the football team. When he saw that playing college sports wasn’t in the cards, he began officiating high school games with the encouragement of one of his professors, the late Al Simon (who was also a Lafayette City Council Member).
Boudreaux started refereeing Southland and Trans America games in Natchitoches, Thibodaux, and Shreveport. Al Simon was instrumental in getting Boudreaux into officiating. His admiration for Simon as a teacher, mentor, and elected City Council member was front and center in the podcast. Boudreaux took every class he could from Simon in the Kinesiology Department and they developed a great relationship. As for Simon’s professionalism as an elected official from whom he learned much, Boudreaux shared that, “He wasn’t just a council member, he met with department heads to hear firsthand what their needs were.” Al Simon eventually moved to Jackson MS later in life and served as a member of Jackson’s City Council for several terms. Boudreaux remembered with affection how Simon was referred to as “The Man from Glad,” with that full head of white hair!
He moved up the ranks quickly and served 28 years as an SEC basketball referee: 21 years as an official on the floor, and 7 years as Supervisor of Officials. Working as an official in the Southeastern Conference NCAA Division 1 is the highest level you can go and Sen. Boudreaux enjoyed his tenure officiating the top teams in the country. His career highlights included officiating five times in the NCAA Final Four playoffs, a fete unheard of. He shared humorous memories of the many well-known players and coaches he has met and tangled with, including Dale Brown, the infamous and outspoken LSU Basketball Coach who he remains friends with to this day once they got past the technical foul Boudreaux had to call on him in a game between LSU and Georgia!
In 2000, Boudreaux was honored as the Naismith College Men’s Basketball Official of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club and in May of 2008 was named “Mr. Louisiana Basketball”, the top award given by the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches for someone who has made a significant long-term contribution to basketball in Louisiana. Gerald became the eighth recipient of the Dave Dixon Sports Leadership Award in 2010.
Boudreaux loves being a Senator for the state of Louisiana as it gives him the opportunity to connect people with the resources they need and get assistance. As Chair of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee in the Senate, he recounts the many needs and the issues our valued veterans face: PTSD, military homes, cemeteries. His focus as a public servant is veterans and education.
He is also a proponent of raising the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour gradually over a several-year period. He discussed how Congress didn’t just come up with the $600 weekly benefit during the COVID crisis…..” they thought that’s what people need to live on.”
Sen. Boudreaux encourages local citizens to realize that the government belongs to the people. “Your elected officials listen when you call….both at the state and local level.” He shared anecdotal evidence as to the time when there was no indoor swimming facility in Lafayette. While he had placed a request for funding in the Lafayette budge for five years, nothing happened. Then, when Hank Perret and other families realized that all the other towns had indoor pools to support their local swim teams, people got on board and starting calling their council representative to fix the situation. In the next two years, the pool got built at the Robicheaux Center. “It takes the whole community to get involved to get things done. In this effort, the parents banded together to get funding. It worked. It still works today.”
When asked how the last two sessions of 2020 unfolded, he explained that the legislators were just trying to manage the repercussions of the virus and funding of business and individual needs. With revenue down in all parishes due to the shutdown, the Senate and House did their best to manage the $680 billion dollars distributed to Louisiana by the federal government. On the last day of the special session, a compromise was reached on the tort reform. No bills were heard by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee chaired by Sen. Fred Mills as the committee didn’t want to rush bills through the process with no public input.
Senator Boudreaux has been active in philanthropic leadership positions over the years and is currently serving on the boards of the Miles Perret Cancer Services Center, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Committee. He and his family attend Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, where he serves as trustee.
Sen. Boudreaux, his wife, Carlos, and their family suffered tremendous tragedy recently. His daughter, Brittney Lavell Boudreaux, courageously battled breast cancer for three years before recently succumbing to the disease on April 2, 2020. She was a 2019 graduate of the University of Texas with a Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Administration and was pursuing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice at UT. She worked as a Registered Nurse Neonatal ICU Manager for Texas Children’s Hospital.
Senator Gerald Boudreaux may be contacted at (337) 267-7520 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Discover Lafayette thanks Sen. Gerald Boudreaux for sharing his life story and service to our community. His kind, benevolent spirit is inspirational!