Slidell Town Talk: Meet incoming Senator Sharon Hewitt

Sharon Hewitt's successful run for the State Senate seat in District 1 was, by her own account, exciting, frustrating, eye-opening and all in all, a lot of fun.

Her opponents, initially the incumbent A.G. Crowe before he dropped out of the race, and then former legislator Pete Schneider, made a great deal of Hewitt being a former PTA mom.

The title, some would consider a deficit.

Hewitt wore with pride and won the senate seat.

"I think PTA moms make the world go around," she said wearing a big grin.

There were many fellow PTA alumnae among the core support group Hewitt had during her successful campaign. 

Hewitt had a lot of ground to cover to get to know the people in District 1.  Encompassing parts of St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Orleans Parishes, her days were long.  She saw it as an opportunity to meet the people she would serve.

"If someone told us about a community event and there was a way I could get there, it went on my calendar," she said. 

There were days when she attended as many as eight different events across the district. One of her favorites was Trade Days just north of Pearl River one Saturday morning.

"I didn't really know what to expect. There were trucks and trailers full of chickens, pigs, produce, just a wide variety of things," she said. "Everyone was bartering and it was interesting to watch." 

Besides learning how six chickens could be exchanged for one pig and other trading guidelines, visiting with the people gave her a new perspective on the interests of yet another part of the district.

"One of the main things I came away from meeting people at events like Trading Days, was that people want to know they are represented in Baton Rouge, that someone is really listening to them," she said.

Along the campaign trail, Hewitt discovered that, although people wanted to know how she stood on issues important to them, they really wanted to know about the person asking for their vote.                

"I hadn't realized how important that would be so I had to become comfortable telling stories about myself," she said. 

Hewitt has some interesting ones.  

She has stories from when she was a fresh LSU engineering graduate and going to work for Shell Oil.  She had to adapt to working on oil rigs at a time when women had only just begun to breach that male bastion. She also shared some of her experiences from her many years of community service, and yes, her PTA days.

One of the more eye opening parts of the campaign for her was the advertisements on TV.  Having political action committees, or PACs, run ads about her without her knowledge or control took some getting used to.  It's was strange even to see the ads that were positive toward her campaign.

"Candidates don't have a say in what the PAC's put in their advertising. Our campaign staff worked hard on our overall message and then we would never know what would come from these groups," she said.

Hewitt said there were many mornings that she and her husband Stan would get up before dawn, make some coffee and click through the news channels, trying to catch all the commercials for the election. Now that the campaigning is done and her role for the next few years has been set, Hewitt has hit the ground running.

The senate scheduled an orientation for new members in mid-December, but Hewitt just couldn't wait. After a brief family vacation immediately after Election Day, she was in Baton Rouge the following week.

"It is amazing how the senate office staff works," she said. "They are a finely tuned machine and I was impressed with their efficiency. They sat me in a meeting room and brought in one person after another to tell me about their responsibilities and what I needed to know to get started. Everything from housing while the legislature is in session to ethics concerns, inauguration day protocol, and office procedures.  It was a whirlwind."

For now, the freshman senator is busy setting up office staff in different parts of her district. It's important to Hewitt that people will be able to contact her about issues where they live.

You kind of wonder why someone would take on a job that pays $22,800 a year, requires living in Baton Rouge for months at a time, and makes you at the beck and call of your constituents at all hours of the day, evenings and weekends.

That person has to be passionate about their community.  During the years I have known her, and yes, she was one of my kids' PTA moms, Hewitt has worked in many ways to improve the quality of life here in Slidell and elsewhere.  Once she is sworn in, she'll be addressed as the Honorable Senator Sharon Hewitt.

The title really does fit the person.

Come Jan. 11, she'll be our Senator Hewitt. I look forward to her bringing a little common sense from her PTA days to Baton Rouge.

 

Dec 27, 2015 - SOURCE - By Suzie Hunt

Senator Sharon Hewitt