Billy Nungesser

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William Harold "Billy" Nungesser
President of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana
Assumed office
January 2, 2007
Preceded by Benny Rousselle
Personal details
Born (1959-01-10) January 10, 1959 (age 56)
Louisiana, USA
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Cher Taffarro
Parents William "Billy" Nungesser (1924-2006)

Ruth Amelia Marks Nungesser (1932-2012)

Occupation Businessman
Nungesser (standing center left) at 2007 Plaquedilla Parade

William Harold Nungesser, usually known as Billy Nungesser (born January 10, 1959), is the President of Plaquemines Parish in suburban New Orleans, Louisiana. A Republican, Nungesser was re-elected to a second four-year term in the 2010 general election, having defeated two opponents with more than 71 percent of the vote.[1] His second term began on January 1, 2011.[2] He made countless media appearances in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including almost nightly guest appearances on the Cable News Network alongside journalist Anderson Cooper.[3] Nungesser was recognized as the Face of the Oil Spill by major media outlets such as the New Orleans Times-Picayune,[4] New York Times,[5] Associated Press,[6] CNN,[7] Reuters,[8] and ABC News.[9]

Plaquemines Parish consists of the final stretch of the Mississippi River before it connects with the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Katrina first made landfall in the southern end of Plaquemines, in the town of Empire, Louisiana.


Nungesser is the son of William "Billy" Nungesser (1924-2006) and the former Ruth Amelia Marks (1932-2012). From 1980 to 1984, the senior Nungesser was the chief of staff during David C. Treen's term as governor. He was later the state chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, in which capacity he unexpectedly supported Patrick J. Buchanan for the party's 1992 presidential nomination.[10]

Ruth Marks Nungesser was also active in Republican politics as a charter member of Republican Women of Louisiana and a delegate to state and national GOP conventions. Nungesser has a younger brother, Eric H. Nungesser and wife Carole, and two sisters, Nancy A. Nungesser and Heidi N. Landry and husband Marlon.[11]

While working in his family's offshore catering business, Nungesser found an alternative use for metal ship containers. In 1991, he established General Marine Leasing Company, a business which provides portable living quarters for offshore workers. The company grew to employ two hundred people and reaching $20 million in sales. In 2004, he was the chairman for the Plaquemines Parish United Way. In 2004 and 2005, Nungesser worked with local business leaders to form the Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry or PABI, separate from the statewide Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. He served on the PABI board during the first years.

Political career[edit]

In 1983, Governor Treen appointed the younger Nungesser to the Lake Pontchartrain and Maurepaus Study Commission. In 1985, Nungesser served on the Orleans Levee Board.

In 2006, Nungesser narrowly won the position of parish president by defeating the Democrat Amos Cormier, Jr. Nungesser polled 4,096 votes (51.1 percent) to Cormier's 3,920 ballots (48.9 percent).[12] The incumbent parish president, Democrat Benny Rousselle, also a former state representative, was term-limited.

In February 2009, Governor Bobby Jindal appointed Nungesser to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The CPRA consists of twenty members who develop a master plan on coastal protection for the state.

In 2010, Nungesser won re-election to parish president in a landslide, having defeated former parish presidents Amos Cormier and Benny Rousselle. Nungesser polled 5,632 votes (71 percent) to Cormier's 1,772 (22 percent) and Rousselle's 499 (6 percent).[1]

In 2011, Nungesser waged a determined but unsuccessful race to unseat Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, a fellow Republican who had formerly served as a state senator from Baton Rouge and as Louisiana secretary of state. Dardenne had been initially elected for a one-year unexpired term in 2010. Dardenne received 504,228 votes (53.1 percent) to Nungesser's 444,750 (46.9 percent). Nungesser defeated Dardenne in seventeen parishes, all in south Louisiana, including Orleans, Iberia, Jefferson, Lafayette, and St. Bernard, as well as his own Plaquemines Parish.[13]

Nungesser has announced that he will again seek the lieutenant governor's position in 2015, as Dardenne challenges U.S. Senator David Vitter for the right to succeed the term-limited Republican Governor Bobby Jindal. Nungesser's opponents will include fellow Republicans, State Senator Elbert Guillory of St. Landry Parish, an African American, and possibly John Young, the president of Jefferson Parish. Also in the race, with a formal announcement expected in November 2014 is Kip Holden, the African-American Democrat Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish.[14]

Parish President[edit]


Much of his work in the first two years has been on hurricane recovery. The eye of Katrina passed over Buras-Triumph, and now the town of Buras has a new water tower. The old tower was knocked to the ground during the hurricane.[15] The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) originally obligated $400,000 to rebuild the Port Eads Marina after Katrina. President Nungesser personally went to Washington, D.C., and appealed the amount. FEMA then authorized $12 million for the project.[16] He was heavily involved in the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

2008 hurricanes[edit]

Before Hurricane Gustav made landfall, President Nungesser took a proactive approach to protect the parish. He flew in a helicopter counting the number of vessels and barges that potentially would be a safety issue to people, property, and the levee system during a hurricane. His team called the owners of about 150 vessels and told them to move the vessels or the parish would sink them. Seventy of the 150 were sunk, some by the parish, some by the owners. There is no way to measure how much damage was prevented by this action.[17]

Hurricane Ike passed hundreds of miles south of Plaquemines, but its tide surge did affect the parish. The water began rising against the levees on the east bank of Plaquemines near the Caernarvon freshwater diversion at Braithwaite. The structure allows fresh water from the Mississippi River to flow into the marsh on the east side of the river. Parish officials noticed the water in the river was not rising at the same rate. After consulting the Army Corps of Engineers, a quick decision was made to open the floodgates to permit the rising water flow into the Mississippi, hence relieving pressure on the levees.[18]


Nungesser began his second term with a public cry for help in removing oil from eroded land at Bay Jimmy.[19]

Coastal restoration[edit]

Nungesser has a long term plan to protect residents, business and the parish from future storms. He collaborated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to create Plaquemines Restoration and Protection Plan which was released in 2009. The plan uses multiple lines of defense along with the levee system to protect the parish from future tropical systems. "If Plaquemines Parish is going to get better hurricane protection, then it’s going to need more than levees," Nungesser told the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate.[20]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Official known for criticizing BP, feds re-elected". Fox News. October 2, 2010. 
  3. ^
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  5. ^ Robertson, Campbell (May 31, 2010). "Louisianan Becomes Face of Anger on Spill". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Goldstein, Katherine (June 29, 2010). "Billy Nungesser: The Face Of Gulf Oil Spill Anger". Huffington Post. 
  7. ^ "Louisiana politician becomes face of grassroots clean-up efforts". CNN. June 3, 2010. 
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  10. ^ Timothy Stanley, The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2012), p. 178;ISBN: 978-0-312-58174-9
  11. ^ "Ruth Amelia Marks Nungesser". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 5, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Election returns, November 7, 2006". Retrieved October 9, 2009. [dead link]
  13. ^ "Louisiana primary election returns, October 22, 2011". Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  14. ^ Rebekah Allen. "BR mayor Kip Holden says he's running for Lieutenant Gov.". Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved August 6, 2014. 
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