DENHAM SPRINGS – Next week will be the fourth time that Buddy Mincey Jr. takes part in naming the school superintendent for Livingston Parish schools.

But Mincey told Chamber of Commerce members, students, and educators that it is still the most important task with which he is involved.

Mincey was one of the speakers at the annual Education in Livingston Parish event sponsored by the Chamber. A total of 13 high school students received Chamber scholarships.

Mincey, president of the School Board, said the five superintendent applicants will be interviewed on Monday, April 15, and a vote will be taken Thursday, April 18.

The schedule of interviews is:

• 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.: C. Michael Robinson Jr., senior associate with BRP Associates, Jonesboro, Ga. He is a native of Thibodaux.

• 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Bruce Chaffin, supervisor of personnel.

• 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Elizabeth Duran Swinford, chief executive officer, PD Remix, Forest Hills, N.Y. She was associate superintendent for human resources for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system from 2003-2010.

• 7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.: Joe Murphy, assistant superintendent.

“As a board member, there is nothing as important as this decision,” Mincey said.

“I can argue the economic engine of Livingston Parish is our school system,” he said.

Mincey said to name the most important public officials in the parish, it might be the parish president and sheriff, but the school superintendent is up there too.

“He is no less important,” Mincey said.

Mincey praised retiring Superintendent Rick Wentzel, who was in the audience, recounting Wentzel’s 33-year career as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent.

Wentzel took over in 2016 only a month before a rain system flooded 19 school campuses, affecting 10 schools in the Denham Springs area alone.

But Wentzel’s effort and the people in the school system had children back in classrooms in 20 days and 108 days after the flood, the three hardest-hit schools were in temporary buildings.

While families throughout Livington Parish dealt with flooding and other problems, Wentzel – whose home flooded – had to look out for 3,500 employees and 26,000 students, Mincey said.

“Our system has recovered and will be stronger than ever and that’s because of Rick Wentzel,” he said.

To the scholarship recipients, Mincey had a few words:

“Congratulations. It took a lot of hard work to get here. The school system prepared you to compete out there.

“Hey, good luck; keep doing what you’re doing.”

To the parents about to see their children leave home and begin a new chapter in their lives, Mincey said, “You will survive.”

“I can relate to the parents. Last fall I had three kids in college at the same time,” Mincey said.

“When the first one left, I mourned for four to five months – my wife said it was 6 months,” he said.

His second daughter went off to college a week before the Great Flood of 2016, so Mincey said he was numb.

“When it came time for my third daughter,” he said, it was, “See ya later.”

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