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|Sandra Smith Thompson|
October 4, 1946 |
Monroe, Ouachita Parish
|Alma mater||Louisiana State University|
|Occupation||State government administrator
Thompson was reared on a farm near Monroe in northeast Louisiana. She graduated in 1964 from Neville High School in Monroe and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. She procured a Master of Business Administration from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Her career in state government began in the 1970s when she worked in the office of then Secretary of State Wade O. Martin, Jr. She was named director of the Atchafalaya Basin Division of the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. The lieutenant governor now heads Culture, Recreation, and Tourism.
The Atchafalaya project, which encompassing a million acres (4,000 km²), is the largest bottomland swamp in North America. She left the project in 1979 to run unsuccessfully as a Democrat for secretary of state. The position became open when incumbent Paul J. Hardy, then of St. Martinville, who had succeeded Martin in 1976, ran unsuccessfully for governor.
Thompson went into a general election with fellow Democrat, then State Senator James H. "Jim" Brown of Ferriday in Concordia Parish. She had a considerable lead in the nonpartisan blanket primary but fell unexpectedly short in the second round of balloting.
In the primary, Thompson polled 504,808 votes (40.8 percent) to Brown's 391,849 ballots (31.7 percent). An African-American candidate, Ben Jeffers, received 253,764 votes (20.5 percent). Republican candidate Dick Bruce, a New Orleans advertising executive who stressed tourism and international trade, polled 85,870 votes (6.9 percent). In 1971, Bruce ran unsuccessfully in the race to succeed Lieutenant C. C. "Taddy" Aycock.
Therefore, Jim Brown secured nearly all of the votes obtained by Jeffers, and most of Bruce's supporters are believed to have switched to Thompson. Brown won the general election with 665,608 votes (51.1 percent) to Thompson's 617,907 (48.9 percent). The percent for Brown and Jeffers from the primary was a combined 52.2 percent, or 1.1 percentage points more than what Brown finally received in the final phase of the race. Thompson and Bruce in the first round of balloting had a combined 47.7 percent, or 1.2 percentage points below what Thompson finally received. For years, Thompson said that she never expected to lose the race. In 1983, she attempted to unseat East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court Mike Cannon. Though she ran well enough to make the general election, she again was defeated.
After the secretary of state's race, Thompson owned and operated an oilfield trucking company in Baton Rouge. Republican Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr., called her back to state government in 1996 to work in his new administration. She was named director of the Atchafalaya Basin Program, when it was re-established in 1998 by state law as a 15-year plan to work with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and other entities for the federally sponsored Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System.
Thompson has been active in many conservation endeavors. She is an officer of the Louisiana Sierra Club. She has twice secured the Professional Conservationist of the Year award from the Wildlife and Fisheries Department, most recently in 1999. She also won the Lyndon B. Johnson National Award for excellence in the field of the environment.
In the Atchafalaya project, Thompson worked under Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge. The media reported strains in their professional relationship, and it was suggested that Thompson wanted to succeed Angelle, then a Democrat and later a Republican, in the Bobby Jindal administration. In May 2010, Jindal announced the appointment of Angelle to serve on an interim basis as lieutenant governor until a special election was held in October 2010 to fill the remaining months of the term of Mitch Landrieu, who left upon his election as the mayor of New Orleans. Victory went to Secretary of State Jay Dardenne.
Thompson describes her management style as one of macromanagement: "Most successful leaders don't micromanage. What we tried to do with the Atchafalaya Program is hire the very best architects, engineers, and designers and tell them, 'Give me your best. I’m not going to micromanage you.'"
Thompson has two grown children.
- Steven K. Landry, "Ex-Atchafalaya Basin official looks ahead: Sandra Thompson helps Jindal campaign", Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, Acadiana Edition, September 4, 2007, p. 1B: http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/9555402.html?index=1&c=y
- Election Statistics, 1979 (Baton Rouge: Secretary of State)