205 No. Fourth Street | Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70801 | 225-387-5141 | church @ stjamesbr.org |                

2019 Vestry Candidates

We present bios of this year’s twelve nominees for the St. James Vestry. To be nominated is a distinct honor, recognizing the considerable gifts each candidate already offers to the parish.

Retiring members are Charlie Frey, Barbin Graham, Catherine Harrell, Buzzy Heroman, Bill Hines, and Sue Larisey, as well as Gerry Sulzer who has served as Senior Warden and non-voting member of the vestry during our transition. We give grateful thanks for their dedicated service.

Incumbent members are (one year remaining): Barbara Irwin Garon, Lee Griffin, Kyle Landrem, Jay Noland, Anna Catherine Soule, and David Warrington; and (two years remaining): Denise Allen, Claudia Black, Patrick Broderick, Bob Israel, Julie McCall, and Craig Rhodes.

Parishioners qualified to vote shall select six (6) members from the candidates below to serve three-year terms on the vestry. "Those entitled to vote at an Annual Parish Meeting shall be adult communicants of at least sixteen (16) years of age in good standing who have been Members of the Parish for at least one year and contributors of record to the Church for a period of six (6) months prior to any meeting at which a Member may vote (“Voting Member”).

Annual Meeting Sunday Schedule:

• 8:00 a.m. service with ballots for voting 
• 9:00-10:15 a.m. Parish  Breakfast in the Day School cafeteria, sponsored by the Associate Vestry 
• 10:30 a.m. services with ballots distributed for voting 
• 11:30 a.m. - Business meeting and voting results, in Bishops Hall



Martha Vasquez and her husband, Jeremy, are the parents of seven-year-old Amelia and four-year-old Margot. Martha is self-employed using her finance and law degrees to help manage several businesses.  Jeremy is a General Contractor, and they are involved in multifamily real estate. Martha enjoys pilates, yoga, and barre classes, and their children. She holds a B.S. in finance from LSU and a J.D. from Loyola Law. She has been involved with the St. James Children’s Council, served on the Search Committee, and is currently the Parents Guild treasurer at the Day School. Martha shares that, “St. James has a bright future. My hope is that we continue to grow in our faith and challenge ourselves to be the best St. James we can be. I want my children to remember their childhood church as one full of love and praise.”



Catherine Maraist Van Hook is married to James Van Hook, and parent to James (15), a freshman at Catholic High, and Olivia (12), a seventh-grader at Episcopal. Catherine was Assistant U.S. Attorney 1999-2017, and is a partner at Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson. She was a teacher of English as a foreign language, in Italy, 1988-1993. She enjoys painting, cooking, traveling, teaching, and community activism. Catherine holds a B.A. from the University of Texas - Austin; and a J.D. from the Paul M. Hebert School of Law at LSU.  At St. James and in the diocese, she has been a member of the diocesan Constitutions and Canons Board; served on the Associate Vestry; Center for Spiritual Formation board; and, served as a lector and various social activities. In the community, she serves as president of the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Federal Bar Association; LSU Trial Advocacy Planning Committee; LSU Law School Alumni Board of Trustees; Junior League of Baton Rouge; and, the Symphony League of Baton Rouge. Catherine says, “I envision St. James as a place of worship, education, support, and nurture for our parishioners at all stages of their spiritual life, and a church life grounded in serving Christ and all his children.”



Stewart Tharp and his spouse, Gina, are the parents of Eliza Douglass, Eloise, and Maxwell. Stewart is the current owner of Southeastern Overhead Door, Inc. He was previously a partner at Taylor, Porter, Brooks, and Phillips LLP. Stewart is an outdoors enthusiast, and enjoys soccer and reading. He holds a B.A. from Millsaps College, and a J.D. from the University of Mississippi. At St. James, Stewart has been active as a Vestry member, Associate Vestry member, Vestry Nominating Committee member, Stewardship Committee member, and usher. In the community, he is involved with coaching children’s sports, Volunteer in Public Schools (VIPS), Junior Achievement, and Big Brother. Stewart describes, “My vision is that St. James prospers as a welcoming and spiritual home for its parishioners, and its ministries lead us to the most complete vision of Christian life: His Kingdom come in the hearts of all people and His will be done.”



John Sykes is married to John K. Carpenter and has served as the director, Magnolia Mound Historic Site since 2011. He was formerly the Education Manager at the Louisiana State Museum, and a Missionary Teacher, (Anglican) Church of the Province of Kenya, East Africa. John enjoys local history, gardening, and cooking. He holds a B.A. in English Literature & Honors in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the M.A. in American History from the University of Alabama. At St. James, John has served as a Sunday School Teacher in grades 3-5; on the Newcomer’s/Welcome Committee; Gumbo co-chair in 2017 and 2018; and, on the 2018 Search Committee. John shares that, “Inspired by our history, I have a vision of St. James as a Parish of joyous inclusion with open doors and open hearts to all who seek the Gospel. I see a church that ministers to its members and is also actively engaged in the broader community as a source of hope and support. For me, the promise of St. James is embodied at Gumbo every year: that all can serve and all are welcome at God’s table.”



Trey Roberts is married to Nancy Benton Roberts and they have three children, all baptized at St. James and attending the Day School: Laurel (11), Frances (9), and William (7). Trey is currently the Assistant General Manager of the Baton Rouge plant for Lamar Advertising. When not shuffling kids to practices and activities, Trey is an avid runner. He is a graduate of TCU, where he earned a degree in Marketing. Trey is currently the chair of the Church Finance Committee. He has previously served on the Vestry and on the Associate Vestry where he was elected vice president and president. He has also served as the head of the ushers and, most recently, was co-chair of the Search Committee. In addition to his service to the church, Trey has been active in leadership roles at the Day School where he has served on the Day School Board of Trustees and was Board president for a two-year term In the community, Trey is a member of the Baton Rouge Rotary Club and serves on the Board of the Ecumenical House and the Board of St. James Place. Having been involved in the search for our new Rector, Trey is very excited about what the future holds for St. James. He is confident that the energy and enthusiasm that Fr. Duncan brings will continue to resonate throughout all aspects of our church community.



Amy Rabalais and husband, Mike, are the parents of Pace (9), and Marjorie (7), who are students at the Day School. Amy is an ENT physician at Ochsner Baton Rouge. She enjoys gardening, traveling, spending time with their children, hiking, and skiing. Amy holds a B.A. in French from the University of Texas in Austin, and earned her M.D. at the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans. At St. James, Amy was a founding member of the Children’s Council, and is completing a term on the Associate Vestry where she is president. She has been a Sunday School teacher, and organized the Adult Sunday School fall series on “Power Parenting.” In the community, Amy is a volunteer at Thrive School, a public boarding school with EBR Parish Schools, and is a St. James Boy Scout Troop leader Amy shares, “Our family has been active members of St. James for almost nine years, and I have loved watching our church grow and develop to meet the needs of our parish. I am very excited about the increased educational options on Sunday mornings, something which we should continue to nurture in the future. St. James also has unique outreach opportunities with our location in a developing downtown, and we can be a powerful agent for change in our neighborhood.”



Harriett Pooler is the mother of two adult children who were Episcopal graduates: Meg Coady Willett, living in Iowa; and, Matthew Coady, living in Shreveport, and the blessed grandmother of four granddaughters! Harriett was born in Lafayette and baptized at Church of the Ascension. She is a professional fundraiser for Ducks Unlimited, Inc. as the Director of Foundation Relations for the U.S. Southern and Western Regions. She previously worked in fundraising for Audubon Louisiana, The Nature Conservancy, LSU Foundation and United Way. She says, “I am an avid birdwatcher and gardener, using native plants for hummingbirds and butterflies. I am on the LSU Hilltop Arboretum board and past President/board member of the Baton Rouge Audubon Society. Other hobbies include hiking, traveling and reading.” Harriett holds a B.S. from ULL. At St. James, she has been involved with the stewardship drive for many years and was a member of the Associate Vestry, and at previous parishes was involved with Sunday school, Bible study and Vacation Bible School. Harriett says, “It is so easy and natural for me to see God and his awesomeness in nature, in the birds, trees, butterflies, etc. I’d like to see St. James grow in membership, especially attracting young families. I would like to encourage our children to get outside into nature more (away from electronics) to see God’s handiwork and to learn to be stewards of this good earth. As for St. James’ adults being good stewards, I think we could make small changes, like discontinuing the use of Styrofoam cups.



Bahin Hootsell Leonard and her husband, Frank, are the parents of two adult sons, Harwood and John. Bahin is a licensed Residential Contractor, licensed Real Estate Broker, having been involved in many commercial and community projects in the area. She enjoys her church work, gardening (master gardener), walks in the country, reading, genealogy, traveling, art and music. Bahin holds a B.A. from LSU. At St. James, Bahin recently served on the Search Committee and Outreach Grants Committee; and, is involved as a lector, on the Altar Guild, and participates in Joan of Arc, Gumbo, St. Martha’s Guild, St. James Christmas Feast for the homeless. She is a graduate of Education for Ministry. In the community, Bahin serves (in many instances has or currently serves as president) with the Lakeside Oaks Homeowners Association; Fais Do Do; the “Reviewers,” Bal Societe, and the National Society of the Colonial Dames in America in the State of Louisiana. Bahin describes, “My vision for St James is that through the Holy Spirit and Grace the hearts of each of us will be transformed, filled with God’s Spirit to love one another as Christ loves us. To paraphrase our mission statement: May we continue to proclaim Christ crucified and risen and to seek new ways to invite all to join with us in ministry together in his name.”



Amy McBride Kurtz is a life-long Episcopalian and member of St. James church. Amy and her husband, Christian, were married at St. James in 2000. They have two daughters, Anna Grace, who graduated from the Day School, and Mary Beth, who currently attends the Day School.  Amy graduated from LSU with a B.S. in Environmental Management and works for Ramboll US Corporation as a consultant. At St. James, she has served on the Associate Vestry, Stewardship Committee, and Welcome Committee, and has volunteered with Vacation Bible School and Gumbo. Amy says, “St. James holds a special place in my heart, as my family has been active in the church for over 100 years.  I see an exciting future for St. James, and I think it’s important to focus on the growth of the church right now. I would be honored to serve my church and fellow parishioners.”



Randal Johnson is originally from west central Louisiana, raised in a small town as a Roman Catholic with a little Baptist mixed in, but that’s the way the communities are where he was raised. He studied at Northeast Louisiana University and did graduate studies at McNeese.  When in Lake Charles, he had the good fortune of living across the street from the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, and attended there as well the Catholic parish. Randal moved to Baton Rouge in 1990 to work the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, where he succeeded John Compton in the role of Deputy Commissioner. He was also introduced to St. James where he was received into the Episcopal Church.  Volunteering in several roles and ever-ready to help, Randal now can be seen typically at the 10:30 service and other church activities next to his son, Jacob, who is an acolyte.  Many of you have seen Jacob grow from the little one he was to a tall, strong, eleven-year-old who is a fifth-grader at Episcopal. In his professional career, Randal has served a lifetime of involvement in government and public service in Louisiana, keeping him attentive to issues affecting our state and nation.  Particularly in healthcare policy and emergency preparedness and response, Randal has honed leadership skills and developed a keen understanding of people and processes. Randal says, “I have found a sense of community and belonging at St. James. I appreciate the opportunity and nomination and look forward to serving if chosen by the parishioners.”



Wendell H. Holmes has been married to Ann Sumner Holmes for 44 years, and they have two sons, Sumner and George, and a grandson Russell. He is currently a Professor at the LSU Law School; having previously been on the faculty of the University of Mississippi Law School, and an attorney and partner at the law firm of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada in Jackson, Mississippi. His interests include running, cooking, traveling, and playing the guitar. Wendell earned a B.A. in history from Millsaps College, and his J.D. from Tulane University. At St. James, Wendell serves as a lector and as an usher, and he has served on the Outreach Committee. Wendell says, “I hope that St. James can continue to grow by offering engaging programs and classes for people of all ages.”


  Tony Carter is married to Elizabeth McCool Carter, and has two grown children, two grandchildren and a step-daughter. He retired in 2017 as co-founder and Executive vice president of Reliant Rehabilitation. Since his retirement, he has worked as a Licensed Legal Investigator for Asmussen & Associates. Tony enjoys golf, racquetball, snow skiing, attending LSU football games, traveling and daily morning workouts at the gym. He holds a B.A. from Northwestern State University with post-graduate studies at LSU and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.  Tony is a lifelong Episcopalian, having been baptized and confirmed in 1963 at St. James Episcopal Church in Alexandria. He began serving as a Eucharistic Minister at the early service soon after joining St. James in 2007, enjoying the uniqueness of this congregation. He has participated in stewardship campaigns and volunteers at St. James Place for their annual Senior Games and other events. In the community, Tony is past president and board member of his Home Owners Association, representing the association on City Council committees. Tony says, “I am both humbled and honored to have been nominated for the Vestry and would welcome the privilege of serving on this important leadership role in our church. In the future, I would like to see St. James grow with more attendance and participation, not necessarily with new members, but rather with existing members who have chosen to be less active in the past but now with a renewed commitment.