|54th Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana|
Assumed office |
January 11, 2016
|Governor||John Bel Edwards|
|Preceded by||Jay Dardenne|
|President of Plaquemines Parish|
January 2, 2007 – January 5, 2015
|Preceded by||Benny Rousselle|
|Succeeded by||Amos Cormier|
January 10, 1959|
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
A Republican, Nungesser is also the former president of the Plaquemines Parish Commission, having been re-elected to a second four-year term in the 2010 general election in which he topped two opponents with more than 71 percent of the vote. His second term as parish president began on January 1, 2011, and ended four years later.
Nungesser is the son of the late William Aicklen "Billy" Nungesser 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 of Louisiana. 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.
Ruth 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. Billy Nungesser has a younger brother, Eric H. Nungesser and wife Carole, and two sisters, Nancy A. Nungesser and Heidi N. Landry and husband Marlon.
In 1983, Governor Treen appointed the younger Nungesser to the Lake Pontchartrain and Maurepaus Study Commission. The senior Nungesser was named in 1985 to the Orleans Levee Board.
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 its early years.
Since vacating the parish presidency, Nungesser has relocated to River Ranch in Lafayette Parish. He announced his second bid for the office of lieutenant governor. He lost the race in 2011 to incumbent Jay Dardenne, who subsequently ran unsuccessfully in 2015 for governor of Louisiana, a post subsequently won in the general election by a Democrat, John Bel Edwards of Livingston Parish.
In 2006, Nungesser narrowly won the position of parish president by defeating the then Democrat Amos Cormier, Jr. Nungesser polled 4,096 votes (51.1 percent) to Cormier's 3,920 ballots (48.9 percent). The then incumbent parish president and a former state representative, Democrat Benny Rousselle, was term-limited.
In February 2009, Governor Bobby Jindal appointed Nungesser to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, a 20-member panel assigned to develop a master plan on coastal protection for the state.
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.
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. He was heavily involved in the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
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.
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.
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Nungesser 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. Nungesser was recognized as the Face of the Oil Spill by major media outlets such as the New Orleans Times-Picayune, The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, Reuters, and ABC News.
Plaquemines Parish consists of the final stretch of the Mississippi River before it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Katrina first made landfall in the southern end of Plaquemines Parish in the town of Empire, Louisiana.
In 2010, Nungesser won re-election to parish president, 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). He began his second term with a public cry for help in removing oil from eroded land at Bay Jimmy.
Nungesser offered 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 the Plaquemines Restoration and Protection Plan, 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.
In 2014, Amos Cormier, Jr., switched parties and won the election to succeed Nungesser as parish president, who was term-limited. In a runoff election on December 6, 2014, Cormier defeated fellow Republican Jerry Hodnett, 4,315 votes (56.4 percent) to 3,333 (43.6 percent).
In 2011, Nungesser waged an 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 Plaquemines Parish, his former residence.
Nungesser ran again for lieutenant governor in 2015, this time successfully. Jay Dardenne did not seek reelection but ran instead for governor and finished fourth in the primary for that office. Nungesser claimed that his business and political experience made him ideal to manage the state tourism industry, the principal function of the office. His sentimental political advertisements used background music from the song "You Are My Sunshine" by the late Democratic Governor Jimmie Davis.
Nungesser ran second in the primary election with 324,654 votes (30 percent) and faced Kip Holden, the African-American Democratic Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish, who led the four-candidate field with 360,679 votes (33.3 percent). In a strong third-place was John Young, the president of Jefferson Parish, who received 313,183 votes (28.9 percent). Departing African-American Republican State Senator Elbert Guillory of Opelousas ran last with 85,460 votes (7.9 percent).
In the 2015 general election Nungesser prevailed, 628,864 votes (55.38 percent) to Holden's 506,578 (44.62 percent). Democrat John Bel Edwards won the gubernatorial race over Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter. Edwards and Nungesser, of opposite parties, assumed office on January 11, 2016.
As lieutenant governor
Shortly after taking office, Lieutenant Governor Nungesser named Robert J. Barham of Morehouse Parish, the former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries under former Governor Jindal as the new director of state parks and historic sites. Nungesser became acquainted with Barham when the two worked closely together in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.
Nungesser's communications director, Kriss Fairbairn Fortunato (born September 1963) of Jefferson Parish, quit her position after three months of service in April 2016 because, in her words, "It was not a comfortable environment and not a good fit" because she was returning full-time to her private communications company. Fortunato left Nungesser's office a week before The Baton Rouge Advocate published a story about how Nungesser and state Republican chairman Roger Villere had attempted to negotiate an unusual oil trade deal with Iraq. Nungesser signed letters in the negotiations invoking the name of Governor John Bel Edwards but never informed Edwards of the idea which he and Villere were promoting.
In July 2016, Nungesser said that he believes voter fraud by the Democratic Party is still a serious hurdle for Republicans in Louisiana, having cited local elections in his native Plaquemines Parish and also 2015 elections statewide (including for his own lieutenant gubernatorial race) had registered and unregistered voters show up by the busload at early voting sites, sign a sheet of paper and have their vote count. His remarks drew a quick rebuke from Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a fellow Republican, who called Nungesser's comments "at a minimum uninformed. [He] quite possibly [made] an insult to not only my office, but also our hard-working clerks of court and registrars of voters who are our trusted partners for every election." Nungesser said his comments were taken out of context because he was referring to a local election in Plaquemines Parish in 2005. He said that he admires how Schedler handles the office of Secretary of State.
In April 2017, Nungesser was accused of "political interference" in the operation of the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. Timothy Joseph "Tim" Chester (born 1956), the interim director of the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans, resigned in a public dispute with Nungesser. Formerly from Michigan, Chester revealed that Nungesser has used an apartment at the Lower Pontalba Building in Jackson Square as well as space in other state museum buildings in the French Quarter for Nungesser's personal convenience. He further accused the lieutenant governor of interfering in the operation of the museum. Nungesser said that Chester had not been moving with sufficient speed to find a permanent director or to implement Nungesser's recommendations regarding the museum, which includes historic buildings in both New Orleans and Baton Rouge and is operated by the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, an agency overseen by the lieutenant governor. The museum, however, also has a semi-independent operating board.
Nungesser opposed the removal of Confederate monuments to Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Pierre G.T. Beauregard from Lee Circle in New Orleans. With only one dissent, the New Orleans City Council joined the call of Mayor Mitch Landrieu to remove the monuments. Courts have sided with city officials against those who support keeping the monuments. In a 2017 letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, Nungesser asked that executive power be exerted under the Antiquities Act of 1906, by which the chief executive can "declare by public proclamation, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic significance as national monuments." Trump did not reply to Nungesser's appeal.
Nungesser thereafter called upon Mayor Landrieu to transfer the four monuments to the jurisdiction of the Department of Recreation, Culture, and Tourism, which falls under the jurisdiction of the lieutenant governor. Landrieu, however, will place the monuments up for competitive bidding. Nungesser said that he will make an offer for the monuments but needs state legislative approval.
Nungesser proposed in 2017 that public-private partnerships be established for many of the financially-strapped state parks under his jurisdiction, particularly citing two popular facilities in Sabine Parish: North Toledo Bend State Park and Hodges Gardens State Park, at which operating costs vastly outstrip revenues from the $1 park admission fees.
In July 2018, Nungesser appeared on a radio program to reject claims by the more conservative members of his party that he has become a "Republican in Name Only" (RINO) because he is "too friendly" with Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Nungesser said that state officials must "work together. And I think sometimes the political maneuvering gets in the way of what’s best for the state." Nungesser noted that by working with Edwards, he saved a $17 million appropriation for the state park system, which had been fearful of closures and layoffs.
|Plaquemines Parish President Election, 2006|
|Democratic||Amos Cormier, Jr. (inc.)||3,920||49|
|Plaquemines Parish President Election, 2010|
|Republican||Billy Nungesser (inc.)||5,632||71|
|Democratic||Amos Cormier, Jr.||1,772||22|
|Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Election, 2011|
|Republican||Jay Dardenne (inc.)||504,451||53|
|Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Election, 2015|
|Democratic||Melvin "Kip" Holden||361,092||33|
|Republican||Elbert Lee Guillory||85,520||8|
|Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Runoff Election, 2015|
|Democratic||Melvin "Kip" Holden||506,640||45|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Billy Nungesser.|
| President of Plaquemines Parish
| Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana