After 30 Years In Office, Tangipahoa President To Retire

AMITE, LA (AP) — The only president Tangipahoa Parish has ever had will retire this year after nearly 30 years in the parish government's top post.

         The Advocate’s Heidi R. Kinchen reports Parish President Gordon Burgess took office in October 1986, when the parish switched from the police jury system by adopting its own Home Rule Charter. His eighth and final term expires Jan. 11, 2016.

         In a statement Friday announcing his retirement, the 80-year-old Burgess — a former oil man and cattle farmer — said he never planned to serve eight terms as parish president.

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         "I didn't even enroll in the municipal retirement system," he said. "I really thought I'd help get things started here and go back to the oilfield."

         When Burgess first took office, he found his parish on the verge of financial ruin with a deficit of nearly $4 million.

         "I met with everyone — governors, lawmakers, experts. They were all shocked to see just how bad things were," he said. "The parish voted to declare bankruptcy."

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         The dire financial straits and the realization that there was no plan in place to stop the bleeding led Burgess to adopt a pay-as-you-go approach that he maintained throughout his three decades in office.

         "We made a conscious decision to live within our means," Burgess said.

         The parish also passed a one-cent sales tax — with 75 percent dedicated to roads and bridges and 25 percent to parish operations — that helped pave the way back to solvency.

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         "Although I am sad to be entering my final year, I am proud to say that our team has made a monumental difference in the lives of our residents," he said.

         The parish has retired its debt and made improvements to more than 1,000 miles of roadway.

         Burgess said he is not sure yet what he will do after he retires, but finding a job is not on the agenda. "I've had a couple offers, but if I was looking for a job, I'd keep the one I've got — or try to, anyway."

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