To close out Women's History Month, The Donaldsonville Chief is recognizing Ascension Parish women who have made inspirational strides in their respective fields, and are part of the efforts in continuing the mission of Ascension Parish being a place for women to thrive. For this article, we contacted some amazing women, some of whom, unfortunately were unable to respond by press time You will read a bit of background information on each woman, then a series of questions for which each woman has provided responses. Honorable mention goes to Tamiko Francis Garrison, Tamiko Stroud and Haley Thompson.

Teri James Casso was raised in Prairieville in the Galvez area and now resides with her husband Coy, in Dutchtown. Throughout her years of service to and in Ascension Parish, Casso is a second term councilwoman, Ascension Parish District 8; the executive director for the St. Elizabeth Foundation; the founder and former owner On The Half Shell, a delegate to the Louisiana Super Region Rail Authority; board chairwoman for St. Elizabeth Hospital, Gonzales, also the first woman to serve in this role. Her former positions include being a board member for Ascension Chamber of Commerce, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Ascension Economic Development Corp. and Commissioner Ascension Parish Fire District 3. Casso was also a Barton Fellow through Baton Rouge Area Foundation where she received the award for Excellence in Non-Profit Administration.

What does it take to be you?

A well-defined sense of fair play, patience, persistence and the ability to build a consensus.

What characteristics make women strong contenders?

Strength, tolerance, persistence.

What is your biggest inspiration?

The women in my family, particularly my mother, who worked and raised their children, when this trend was just beginning.They did both exceedingly well!

What's one thing that almost took the wind out of your sails?

I learned quickly that government did not and could not run like a business.

If there's one thing left undone, what is it and will you try to achieve it?

I’d like to advance the cause of mental health and I’d like to see a judge elected or appointed for Ascension Parish whose sole responsibility was family and juvenile court. I certainly will work with others to help these things to happen.

For what do you want to go down in history?

Having been a part of the happy memories of those I love and who love me and having been associated with positive progress in my community. I love knowing that my name is on the plaque at the new Ascension Parish Governmental Building. It’s great to have your name in bronze somewhere other than a grave maker!

What is your message to young girls?

Decide what you want to do with your life, allow that to change over time. Understand that timing is everything. I was a late bloomer. While I worked, I didn’t open my first business until I was 39-years-old. I didn’t run for public office until I was 54. Work hard, work tirelessly, work compassionately but the key word is WORK!

Bridget Hanna is a native of Donaldsonville who lives in St. Amant. She is the Certified Clerk of Court and is a member of the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association, serving on the Clerks Association Board of Directors as secretary. She is also a member of the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers, the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks, The Election Center, East Ascension Rotary Club, Ascension Chamber of Commerce, and Donaldsonville Chamber of Commerce. She holds the position of President for the Ascension Parish Board of Election Supervisors. She has served on numerous committees for the 23rd Judicial District Court and the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association. She is a 2006 graduate of Leadership Ascension. In 2009 she received the Chamber of Commerce Individual of the Year Award as well as the Ambassador of the Year Award. In 2011 she was named New Rotarian of the Year by the East Ascension Rotary Club. She presently serves as chairwoman for the Ascension Chamber of Commerce, Past-President of the East Ascension Rotary Club, chairwoman of the Leadership Ascension Committee, and Vice-President of the Leadership Ascension Foundation Board. Hanna is the first woman to hold the office of Ascension Parish Clerk of Court and so far served one year, although she has served ten years as Chief Deputy Clerk, and has a total of over 32 years of service with the Ascension Parish Clerk of Court’s Office.

What does it take to be you?

A lot of hard work, dedication, determination, making every minute in the day count and a very understanding husband and family.

What characteristics make women strong contenders?

Confidence, independence, being respectful, humble, risk-taker, integrity.

What is your biggest inspiration?

My father, who always encouraged me to be the best that I could be and to always reach for the stars.

What's one thing that almost took the wind out of your sails?

Nothing that comes to mind. I try to live with no regrets and feel that there is always a lesson to be learned in every situation- good or bad.

If there's one thing left undone, what is it and will you try to achieve it?

Really just a continuation of what my predecessor, Hart Bourque, achieved while he was Clerk of Court, and that is to keep the Ascension Parish Clerk of Court’s Office as the top Clerk’s Office in the state. The Ascension Clerk’s employees are absolutely the best and they help me to achieve this every day by providing excellent customer service, preserving and managing the parish records, and keeping pace with the latest technology.

For what do you want to go down in history?

As the first female Clerk of Court in the history of Ascension Parish, I want to be remembered as a strong, independent woman who was dedicated to serving the citizens of our Parish by assuring that the Clerk’s Office provided excellence in service, preservation of our parish records, and maintaining the integrity of our elections process- all with professionalism, proficiency and courtesy.

What is your message to young girls?

Never give up on your dreams! Have faith in yourself and others. Through hard work, dedication and determination you can accomplish your goals!

EDITOR'S NOTE: The next woman chose a different interview style.

Joyce LaCour was born and reared in Baton Rouge, moving to Ascension Parish with her husband, Harold, in 1970. LaCour graduated from Baton Rouge High School where she was a member of the National Honor Society. She went on to attend LSU and earned a Bachelor of Science degree. Several years following her graduation, she participated in two study abroad programs through LSU – in London and in Paris. Upon moving to Ascension Parish she and her husband sought out fellow Republicans at a time, the party in Louisiana was small and there were not many Republicans in Ascension. The couple joined The Sixth District Republican Club of which James Boyce was President and LaCour was secretary of the group. Later, from 1998 to 2008, she was on the Ascension Republican Parish Executive Committee, serving for six of those years as vice-chairwoman.LaCour has been active in both incarnations of community theatre in Ascension – Gonzales Little Theater and the Ascension Community Theatre. With the former, she worked in all areas – production, backstage and acting. With ACT, she specialized in promotion and publicity and was chair of the Reading Committee. She presently serves as corresponding secretary and publicist for Ascension Republican Women, an organization she founded in 2003. She also serves as legislative chairwoman of the parent organization, The Louisiana Federation of Republican Women. She is the publicist for the Pachyderms of GBR and I also work with non-profits such as Concerned Veterans for America and Americans for Prosperity in achieving their goals.

How did your career begin?

My professional life has been primarily in consumer education and sales. I worked for two appliance distributors in the 70’s and early 80’s as a consumer education specialist. Our responsibility was to introduce microwave ovens (they were not in every household then) and demonstrate how consumers in South Louisiana would find them an asset to their kitchens. While home economists across the land were holding demonstrations and making nachos and other snacks, our team held real cooking schools, preparing grits, browning a roux, and making shrimp stew and quiches among other things. Our microwave brand became the number one seller in our territory which included Louisiana, parts of Mississippi and Alabama and Florida.

What's it like balancing politics and theatre?

Some think it odd that I have been very involved in both theater and in politics. I tell them that politics and theatre have two things in common – lots of drama and lots of divas. Being involved in theater taught me to risk. I believe that women make strong contenders in the workplace or politics because they are willing to risk, especially when it becomes clear that the endeavor is for their own benefit and that of their families.

How were you introduced to politics?

My husband, Harold LaCour, introduced me to politics when I was very shy about getting involved. He also shared my love for theater and taught me almost everything I know about promotion. I have used that knowledge to benefit my work in both theater and Republican Women.

How doe the ARW's mission seek to inspire women and girls?

The mission of Republican Women is to educate women in the political process and to encourage them to become involved. We strive to bring current issues to their attention. It is rewarding to see people realize that what happens in far away Washington D.C. and in the state Legislature affects their daily lives and families. Once this is understood, they are empowered to act and do something about it. I believe that this work is important and on-going and I take pride in being a part of it.

What is your message to young girls?

My message to young women would be to look away from the smart phone and the i-Pad and participate in the world around you. Get to know the people with whom you come in contact everyday. Know what is happening in your world and beyond because it will have an effect on you and your family.