GRAND ISLE, La. (AP) - Andy Valence, the colorful former mayor of Grand Isle famous for fiercely protecting his native barrier island from threat of hurricanes and coastal erosion, has died. He was 78.
Valence’s son, Randy, tells WWL-TV (https://bit.ly/1fU6usR) that his father died late Friday and was active until a recent surgery slowed him.
“We always said that one day he’s dying and the next day he’s dancing,” Randy Valence said Saturday, remembering his father’s love for life, even with health problems that included heart disease and viral cardiomyopathy.
Valence was best known for his career as the island’s chief executive, often appearing on TV in his trademark white coat and tie. He was first elected in 1988. He lost a bid for a third term in 1996 by 17 votes. He also served as a Westwego alderman, Jefferson Parish School Board member and executive director of the Grand Isle Port Commission.
After leaving the mayor’s office, he parlayed his long career and public name recognition into a job as a host at Boomtown Casino in Harvey.
Born on Grand Isle, Valence was raised in Westwego and New Orleans. He made headlines throughout the years for his efforts to protect, enhance and preserve the small island, including creating rock-filled breakwaters and even pushing a failed project to use discarded tires to enhance the coastline. Friends and even detractors said his passion for the people of Grand Isle never wavered.
“He was an optimist who saw the best in people,” said his former wife, Rose Valence.
As mayor, Valence could also generate controversy, including once threatening to secede from Jefferson Parish to pressure officials into giving the island more money.
He is survived by his three children, nine grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and a brother.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Information from: WWL-TV, https://wwltv.com
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