Barrilleaux shadows La. House Speaker Kleckley

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor
Jody Barrilleaux meets with La. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley in his office at the state capitol. She shadowed Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, on the first day of the Louisiana Legislative Session on April 8.

Jody Barrilleaux, a community relations specialist for Hixson Funeral Homes from Sulphur, got what she said was "the opportunity of a lifetime." She shadowed La. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley on the first day of the Louisiana Legislative Session on April 8.

She said it all happened as a result of a karoke singing contest.

"I was invited to sing in a karoke contest – a fundraiser for the Children's Museum," she said. "They had a silent auction, and I won two of the items. The first was to have lunch with the mayor, and the second was to shadow Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley."

She admitted to having very little understanding of politics, but she thought it was important to embrace life and explore new opportunities.

Barrilleaux said she won the opportunity back in October; however, when she called Kleckley's office to schedule her visit, he asked her if she would like to come for the first day of the regular session on April 8, when there would be more to see.

"I thought it was really nice of him," she said. "He didn't even know me, but he was thinking of how he could make the experience more special. I really appreciated that."

During her day at the state capitol, she had a one-on-one meeting with Kleckley where he thanked her for supporting the Children's Museum.

"The Children's Museum is very important to Southwest Louisiana," he said, adding the museum was also important to him.

Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said he wanted her to see some special things which were happening during the day.

"At noon today, two new members will be sworn in," he said. "Then, at 1 p.m., we'll have a joint session with the House and Senate where the governor will give his State of the State Address."

Kleckley said the chamber would be full that day as many important issues would be discussed.

"It should be an interesting session," he said. "The governor will be pushing his tax reform. Education and the budget will also be a big part of this session."

During their meeting, Kleckley presented Barrilleaux and her guest with bronze paperweights and posed for photographs. He told Barrilleaux and her guest they would be sitting in special seats reserved for them – right next to his wife, Laurie.

Barrilleaux said this was a special treat and one of the highlights of her day.

"I was just overwhelmed at seeing the 'real-ness' of who she is – and who he is, through her eyes," she said. "Mrs. Kleckley was a wonderful, gracious host. She went above and beyond taking care of us."

She attended a tea party as a special guest of Mrs. Kleckley's and got to tour the inside of one of the apartments where some of the legislators live when they are working in Baton Rouge.

Overall, Barrilleaux found the experience to be very informative as she got to be at the capitol during a busy time for the legislators.

"I have a better understanding of how our system works," she said. "I have no more fears about our government. Seeing their heads bowing down in prayer as the pastor spoke, I could feel they were all working for a common goal: the betterment of Louisiana."