Evangeline Parish Clerk of Court Randy Deshotel (left) was the speaker at April’s first meeting of the Ville Platte Rotary Club and talked about new things at his office. He is pictured here with Rotarian Maggie Ortego (center) and Rotary President Wayne Vidrine (right). (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
Meeting those who serve
By: TONY MARKS
Rotary International has as its motto “Service above self.” Rotarians are called to live this motto in their business and personal lives.
The Ville Platte Rotary Club recently heard from city and parish public officials who exemplify this same motto in their jobs as fire chief and clerk of court.
Chris Harrison is the fire chief of the City of Ville Platte and of the Evangeline Parish Fire District Number 2, which includes all of Ward 1.
He told the Rotarians that the big thing going on now with his department is the fire rating that affects home owners insurance. “The fire department is graded on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst,” he explained. “In the City of Ville Platte, we’re currently a 3, which is pretty good. In Fire District 2, it’s currently a 5.”
Chief Harrison explained that the fire rating is based on “all our records, equipment, water, and agreements we have with other districts.”
He added, “Only five districts in the State of Louisiana have a Class 1 fire rating, which is the best. That tells you where we stand with a 3. The only thing I think that isn’t fair is we have to do the same thing as Shreveport, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Lafayette to get the Class 1, and we just know we can’t do that.”
One thing that the department is hoping to boost its fire rating is the purchase of property on U.S. Highway 167 N for the construction of a new fire station. Chief Harrison said, “We’re using it as part of a training center because we have to have a certain amount of acreage, and that will increase our deployment analysis.”
The chief concluded by encouraging members of the Rotary Club and of the community to take a tour of the fire department. “I’d be glad if anybody would visit the fire department to see what you own because it’s your fire department,” he said. “We’d be glad to give a tour to anybody who stops by during business hours and show you what you own.”
A week later, the Rotary Club heard from Evangeline Parish Clerk of Court Randy Deshotel. “I still find today (after six years in office) that people don’t know what the clerk’s office does,” he stated.
He then ran down the responsibilities of each of the departments in his office and said the big thing now in his office is elections. “We are in charge of elections,” he stated. “I’m responsible for getting commissioners and commissioners-in-charge and making sure the machines get there.”
“Qualifying this year is going to be July 18-20,” he continued. “This year, you’re going to have all of your municipalities, with the exception of Pine Prairie, and school board. Next year is going to be from governor on down with all state offices, sheriff, clerk, assessor, and police jury. The following year will be judges and district attorney.”
Deshotel then outlined the improvements he has made to the office since taking over for the late Walter Lee who held the position for 56 years. The clerk’s office continues to do birth certificates, which is a service started by Deshotel. The office now is also doing death certificates, but, as the clerk said, “we can only go back to July 2013.”
Other improvements are the addition of public computers and the emphasis on digital content. “Almost everything is scanned,” Deshotel stated. “I’ve applied to get a grant to where we can get a super scanner. Eventually, within the next three or four years, we’ll have every item in that office scanned.”
He concluded, “ It’s just amazing how much goes on in that one little office. A lot of people thought we just get on the radio and announce the elections at night and signed the marriage licenses. It’s not that anymore.”
Ville Platte Rotarian and attorney Brent Coreil told Deshotel, “I do commend you and your staff for the magnificent work that y’all do and the upgrading that you’re doing.”
In his weekly Rotary Minute, Rotary President Wayne Vidrine imparted some history of the club. “In 1987, there was a Supreme Court ruling with a directive saying that all male service organizations were required to accept women,” he said. “The first woman member was Jan Smith the librarian, and the second one was Dianna Reed.”