City Government Has Colorful History
[Reprinted with permission from The Zachary Post]
January 4, 2011
Zachary’s conservative, straight-laced image is nothing like the Zachary of the 1880s and 1890s, which had a Wild West reputation and six barrooms along Main Street.
By the 1930s, things had changed dramatically, and the Baton Rouge and New Orleans newspapers were lauding Zachary as a great place for families to settle.
Along the way, Zachary has had many interesting and colorful Mayors among other leaders. The vast majority have been honest businessmen who simply gave of themselves for four or eight years to serve in city government with little thought of personal gain.
But we have had our share of controversies, tragedies, and interesting characters. The first Mayor was Thomas E. McHugh (1889-1891). Just 100 years later his descendant, also named Tom Ed McHugh was our Metro Councilman and later Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish.
Mayor H. K. Farrar (1891) was granted a leave of absence by the town’s Board of Trustees (the City Council) shortly after being elected. The leave of absence was for 30 days, but the Mayor was suffering from a serious illness, probably tuberculosis, and soon died, never returning to the job.
Another early Mayor, A. W. Converse (1892-1899) had a bit of good luck. The Trustees voted him a salary of $75 a month. Not bad in those days! However, Mayor Converse had some serious problems. When running for reelection in October 1893, he was opposed by A. W. Ratcliff and the two candidates ended up in a 41-41 tie. The matter was somehow settled and Mayor Converse stayed in office. Unfortunately, the minutes of the Board of Trustees, all of which are preserved at the Zachary Archives, show that the Mayor was absent for the board meeting on March 27, 1899. The entry says, “Mayor A. W. Converse absent (deceased)." Apparently the Mayor made a citizen angry over a financial affair, and the citizen shot and killed him.
Over the years, the Loudon family seems to have had a lock in the Mayor’s Office. James Bogan Loudon became Mayor upon the death of Mayor Converse. Two months later J. M. Loudon became Mayor. Mayor J. M. Loudon resigned as Mayor in 1900 but was back in the office in 1902 and resigned again. In 1915, R. E. Loudon was elected Mayor and supposedly served until 1920. In 1920, J. B. Loudon became the Mayor and served until 1930. He was the last Loudon to serve as Mayor.
Three long-serving Mayors were P. P. Kennedy, who served from 1903 to 1915, Marshall Bond, who served from 1932 to 1938 and again from 1942 to 1948, and Mayor Stanley N. “Slim” Noble, who served from 1948 until 1966. Noble's salary was a whopping $250 a month.
In 1966, Zachary elected its first Republican Mayor, Jack L. Breaux, who was quite popular — popular enough to help break down some racial barriers during the integration of the school system. Jack Breaux was, in fact, one of the first Republican elected officials in Louisiana and one of the first Republican Mayors in Louisiana since Reconstruction.
Jessie Pendergest III served for a few months as Mayor after the death of Jack Breaux.
The longest-serving and one of Zachary’s most popular mayors was John Womack, who served from 1982 to 2003. John Womack was defeated by Mayor Charlene Smith. Womack passed away earlier this year, after spending the last eight retired years dedicated to community service through volunteering. Smith, who was defeated by Henry Martinez four years ago, continues to have a thriving insurance business here in Zachary. Martinez, who left office in January, continues to be part of the community through civic participation.
On January 11, 2010, Zachary native, David Amrhein ran against incumbent Henry Martinez. Amrhein won with 57% of Zachary’s 10,000 registered voters. Mayor David Amrhein officially took office on January 10, 2011. He previously served as a Zachary Council member for eight years from 1999 to 2007 and led the Zachary City Council as Mayor Pro-tempore from 2003-2004. David Amrhein was part owner of a successful locally-owned family business, Amrhein and Sons Hardware, for over 30 years.