Meet the Council: District 8 Councilwoman Teri Casso

Halen Doughty
District 8 Councilwoman Teri Casso

A public servant with a servant's heart, District 8 Councilwoman Teri Casso has been making an impact on the parish council since 2012. She said as she gets older, she's learning more and more about what it means to truly be a servant and putting that knowledge to good use as a member of the council.

Casso said she was involved with people in her community as a business owner for more than 15 years. The relationships that developed through her work led discussions about the parish and the path forward to what residents hoped the parish would be. That's why she threw her hat in the race for the 2011 election and won.

The only woman on the council, Casso said the parish council is not the boy's club we sometimes see in other areas of government. She called it a "gentlemen's club," saying all the men on the council make it a point to treat her as an equal while still respecting her as a lady.

"They all have a wonderful way of striking that balance, and I so admire each and every one of them in their ability to do that," said Casso.

She said her male colleagues always listen to what she has to say and value her input. It's important to note Casso is the only woman ever to win reelection for a seat on the council, a sure sign she's doing something right.

Representing the Dutchtown area, transportation is a key issue for the woman who represents a rapidly growing region of the parish. The struggle, she said, is that Ascension Parish is filled with state roads, meaning the council has little control over construction or expansion of those highways. She said working with the Ascension delegation in the state legislature is key to getting things accomplished both on parish and state roadways.

"But also we must move forward on transportation issues that are local and that we can resolve," said Casso.

As a former business owner, Casso said she'd like to see more organization as far as who does what at the parish level. Cronyism, or leaders hiring friends for administrative positions, won't fly with her. She wants to see qualified individuals meet the needs outlined in the job description.

She said while everyone working in the parish is qualified in their jobs, there tends to be a shuffle of people with every election. She'd like to see more stability in the administrative positions and consistency through election cycles. Casso said the end result of that is that it's hard to have consistent momentum moving forward.

"I'm concerned about the structure and the transition from one administration to the next and the stability of that structure," said Casso.

Casso said that kind of structure is already being established in the parish with the creation of two new jobs, a new Human Resources Director and a new Infrastructure Division Director. She said both individuals who filled those positions are well-qualified, and the detailed job descriptions were laid out before applications were taken. She advises the public to keep their eyes open for more structure being established in the parish.

If any member of the council has a servant's heart, it's definitely Casso. Her work as Executive Director of the St. Elizabeth Foundation, a nonprofit adoption agency, speaks for itself. She's helped more than 200 babies get placed in loving homes, while also helping birth mothers cope with the difficult decision to put their child up for adoption. Casso has held the position for eight years, and her office is filled with photos of families she helped to grow. She said the holidays are a wonderful time for her, as she receives tons of Christmas cards from the families she's touched.

"I love everything I do," Casso said, "I can't imagine not doing any of the things I do. I love all of it."

An adoptive mother, Casso once adopted an 18-year-old stepdaughter. That's how Casso came to understand how a child could grow in her heart, even if she didn't grow in her body. Now a teacher, her daughter clearly got Casso's servant heart and now shares that love with others in her own way.

Casso likes to spend her free time with her husband at their beach house in Orange Beach, Ala. She said it's a great place to get away and unwind, spending time with family and friends. The couple enjoys traveling and collecting art, though she joked they can only afford pieces from living artists as pieces from prominent deceased artists tend to be pricier.

"We try to surround ourselves with beautiful things," Casso said.

Making a difference in the parish and helping families grow, it's safe to say that for Casso, life is beautiful.

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