"The successful kids are going to college, and they're leaving. They're not coming back because they're looking for opportunity and they don't have one," said Joseph, "So we have to change our environment to keep our kids here."

Retired Marine and Donaldsonville Parish Councilman Oliver Joseph knows what it takes to get the job done, as evidenced by his many successes in moving his district forward. After spending more than two decades in the military serving his country, Joseph came home to serve his community in a more personal way. In his ten years on the parish council, he's been a champion for recreation and economic development.

"I travelled around the world, and I retired and came back home and just saw a lot of things that third world countries have that we don't have in my community," said Joseph, "and that's what got me involved."

A community that years ago didn't even have running water has come a long way since Joseph joined the council. Today, there's an industrial park, a recreation complex, and yes, running water. Joseph continues to push for more job opportunities, better roads, and improved recreation facilities in Donaldsonville. He's fighting for an extension on Highway 3127 from Highway 70 to LA-1 North to keep heavy traffic off local roads and more recreational activities in the community to occupy kids with after school activities.

In an area where the unemployment rate is high and many children come from single-parent homes, Joseph said recreation is essential to keeping kids on the right track. He said it's an important way to teach youth about teamwork, community, and building relationships.

"Recreation is a part of putting everybody on the same playing field and having the right attitude to progress because when we win in sports or win in those activities, kids have a winning attitude," said Joseph.

Currently kids can play basketball and baseball at the new park, but Joseph wants to see more sports like soccer, kickball, and tennis brought to the area. Getting equipment and building facilities will be a vital aspect of keeping kids occupied after school and out of trouble.

But all those things take money. That's why Joseph is pushing to get more revenue for recreation on the west bank, after proposed recreation taxes failed to win voters' approval. One idea on the table will come up on the ballot next year when residents will decide whether or not to repurpose a portion of sales tax revenue towards recreation. It's been an uphill battle, but Joseph said he will not give up.

Recreation, he noted, is also key in economic development because it builds a community that companies want to be a part of. Creating a safe environment for kids to have fun will be a huge draw to industries looking for a place to call home.

Bringing more industry to the west bank and creating a family-friendly environment will not only benefit today's youth, but the generations of tomorrow as well. Joseph said too many kids in the area are leaving the community to go to school and find jobs. He wants to make improvements in his district so that children want to stay and work in after graduation.

"The successful kids are going to college, and they're leaving. They're not coming back because they're looking for opportunity and they don't have one," said Joseph, "So we have to change our environment to keep our kids here."

The parish council as a whole, Joseph said, is very concerned with the needs of the constituents. While some utilize social media to keep in touch with voters, Joseph said he's a hands-on kind of guy. He prefers to get to know his constituents in person at community events and added that he's always just a phone call away. He's even been known to cook BBQ and jambalaya for residents at events in his district because "everybody loves to eat."

When he's not doing public service work, Joseph stays busy remodeling homes in Donaldsonville. Lately he's been working on one for his oldest daughter Joy, who recently purchased a home in the historic district. His son Oliver Joseph IV is an LSU student studying business. The councilman's baby girl Paige is a freshman at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Joseph has been married to his wife, Terry, for 25 years.

The self-proclaimed workaholic doesn't have much free time outside of his work on the council and in his district. Of course there's yard work to be done, which takes up some time, and he also likes to garden. He said one day he'd like to find a few extra minutes to go fishing, but who knows when that will be? Always hard at work, Joseph doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon.

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