Vincent Pierre is a Louisiana elected official who is extremely proud of his Creole heritage. He was born in the Lafayette Charity Hospital in 1964 and raised in a small, friendly neighbourhood in the Scott/Carencro area of Lafayette Parish. He is inordinately fond of his parents who gave him a strong Catholic upbringing and instilled a solid work ethic.
Vincent Pierre is extremely proud of his Creole heritage and credits his local community with a number of his successes in life. He relied upon local support for setting up his own business and members of local communities have provided the inspiration and input to assist in many of the jobs he’s undertaken, including being elected to represent his community in state government. He gives back to his local community in numerous ways.
Vincent Pierre is an elected member of the 144-member Louisiana House of Representatives and is seeking re-election to the House District 44 seat in the October 2019 elections “I have often been interested in working as a public servant, working for people in the Lafayette area,” he said. “I was active in my Uncle Wilfred Pierre’s political campaigns for a number of years, and I have always had an interest in political affairs.” Working on his uncle’s campaigns “gave me the first taste of the political life I so enjoy,” Vincent said.
His uncle served 15 years on the Lafayette City Council (1976-1991) before being elected to four four-year terms in the state House of Representatives (1991-2007) representing District 44. In 2011, he returned his nephew’s favour, helping Vincent win election to represent the same legislative district, defeating an incumbent. He was elected to a second term with 84 percent of the vote.
In the Legislature, Vincent is a member of the Louisiana House Committee on Insurance; the Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works; and the Committee on Labour and Industrial Affairs. He also serves on the Select Committee on Hurricane Recovery and the Select Disaster Recovery Committee. He is a member the Acadiana Delegation, the Democratic Caucus, and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus.
He is active in a variety of local civic organisations in his community.
“One of the things that I’m really concentrating on is educational improvement in my district. We have schools that have been challenged. District 44 is the front yard of Lafayette, and I am very interested in trying to develop that area so we can gain employment,” he said. “We can improve and give companies an opportunity to locate in this area.”
His school achievements
Vincent has very good memories of his schooling. He first attended the West Side Elementary School and then went on to Scott Elementary, followed by Carencro High. His mother persuaded him to move to the Catholic-run high school of Holy Rosary Institute, as she was very impressed by the pupils’ attitudes and the grades they achieved.
After graduating high school, he went on to study marketing at Southern University in Baton Rouge. His family was so proud of his achievement, as he was the first child from their neighbourhood to go on to college. His mother and father had not completed high school, so Vincent was the first one in the family to attend college.
“Mom and Dad helped as much as they could,” he said. “They both had full-time jobs, along with part-time jobs.” His mother worked in a grocery store and “Dad worked during the day at a dry-cleaners and at night as a janitor. When I would come home during the summer months, I would work with Dad in the janitorial business cleaning offices, which helped to defray the cost of college – books and tuition.”
At the same time, Vincent helped his Uncle Wilton Chaisson in his carpentry business, which also assisted with university expenses. Most of the time while attending the university he stayed at home with his parents, but he also resided on campus occasionally. Living with his parents gave him the opportunity to work with his Uncle Wilfred in his City Council campaigns.
Once Vincent graduated, he started work with Lever Brothers Company, a business which makes personal products like Dove, Caress, Shield, Snuggle and Whisk. He was recruited as a sales representative while still at university and says: “I was really fortunate that I had that opportunity to go to work for a Fortune 500 Company.”
Vincent still continued working with his Uncle Wilfred over the years he was employed by Lever Brothers and says “my uncle decided that he wanted to run for state representative and he won right after being a city councilman. He served some 30 years in government. I worked with him, and enjoyed that, because I enjoy meeting people.” He says his marketing experience really helped him within the public service arena, in the field of sales and services. “In public service, that’s exactly what it is. You’re selling yourself and you’re selling your services”.
After working with Lever Brothers for around five years, he was hired by the Louisiana Lottery Corporation as a sale representative. His job involved calling on retail stores within the whole Southwest region of the state and he was eventually promoted to Regional Manager, in charge of sales and services for the entire region.
The district he had responsibility for was large and he had many contacts with community leaders promoting the many good projects of the Lottery Corporation, including providing funds that went to schools, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
While working for Lever Brothers, Vincent pledged Alpha Phi Alpha, an African-American fraternity that performs civic activities. He was selected to chair community service projects. “All fraternities and sororities are constantly trying to do better for their communities and for their areas,” he said, and his chapter was recognised, nationally, for the community service projects.
“We did a lot of great things. We helped the needy, painting homes, providing people with food banks, assisting with blood drives, and voter registration drives. The Lafayette Chapter submitted our portfolio to the national chapter and Lafayette Alpha Phi Alpha chapter became the National Chapter of the Year.”
Vincent was active in this role with Alpha Phi Alpha for around five years but work commitments meant he could not continue such a demanding life. Even so, he is still a member of their community today and justifiably proud of his achievements, which included Alpha Man of the Year for the Lafayette chapter. “I just enjoy working with people and working to help others that cannot afford to help themselves”.
Starting his own business
While still working for the Lottery Corporation, Vincent joined forces with a group of investors in the Opelousas area (north of Lafayette) to set up a dry-cleaning business.
“My dad was a 50-year dry-cleaning person. If you know about dry-cleaning, it is hard-core. It’s hot and it’s a lot of work. I always wanted my dad to open the first African-American-owned dry-cleaning business. Fifty years ago there was no black-owned dry-cleaning business in Lafayette,” he said.
The deal came together and the business was launched with his father running it and him doing the books, marketing and community outreach. “I wanted my dad to have his own business. He’s always worked for other business groups – all of his life. And I wanted him to say, ‘Look, my son and I have our own dry-cleaning business.’”
After travelling to Dallas to look at a dry cleaning centre, they established the first drive-through dry-cleaning service in Lafayette. Within a couple of years, Vincent and his investors set up another business and he could afford to leave his job with the Lottery Corporation.
After he left the dry-cleaning business, he decided to run for political office, which fit in with his life at the time.
“I ran for office and won. I was the only Democrat that beat an incumbent in the state of Louisiana back in 2012. It’s very difficult to beat an incumbent, someone who’s been there,” Vincent said.
“With my uncle being a state legislator, my mom always being in customer service, and my dad in the dry-cleaning business, we met people a lot. I can tell you the reason why I’m here: It is because I have a great and cohesive family that people can trust. We’ve always been in some kind of service, my Dad in the dry-cleaning service, my Mom in the grocery store service, and me, working in Lottery Corporation and now the Community College, and being in the Legislature. We treat people as they should be treated.”
Vincent Pierre has made a great success of living the “American dream” and his family and friends from the local Creole communities are proud of their association with him. He is a fantastic ambassador for the Creole culture and has come a long way so far in his life. It’s likely his political career will see him make even more waves in the future.