For the better part of five years, many Kenner political insiders have considered Joe Stagni the hardest-working and most ambitious person on the City Council dais. He comes prepared to meetings, keeps his temper in check and takes a leadership role in questioning the administration, shaping the budget and crafting policy.
But now a sexting scandal threatens to derail his career, leading some to call for his resignation.
When news broke last week that Stagni had an "inappropriate" relationship with an administration employee -- and had sent her a picture of himself in his underwear -- Stagni's supporters and opponents alike expressed shock.
"Some people are appalled at it," Councilwoman Jeannie Black said.
Few, if any, could have foreseen such an embarassing mistep from Stagni, a 47-year-old Republican who has lived in Kenner since childhood. He is married with two sons and owns a chiropractic business in Kenner with his father, Leroy Stagni. At age 30, when was a Democrat, Stagni was appointed by then-Gov. Edwin Edwards to the seven-member Louisiana Board of Chiropractic Examiners.
The 2nd District's council representative since 2006, Stagni has been involved in local politics much longer. He served on two zoning boards and on former Mayor Phil Capitano's transition team in 2004. He co-chaired a petition drive that put "merit-based" civil service before Kenner voters in 1999, and as such, was awarded the Monte M. Lemann Award from the Louisiana Civil Service League.
In his first run for the City Council, he lost a fierce battle for an at-large position in 1998 to incumbent Terry McCarthy. But he easily won the open 2nd District seat eight years later and wasoverwhelmingly re-elected last year.
"He comes as prepared as any councilman I've ever worked with as a councilman or mayor," said Muniz, who has 27 years in public office. Inasmuch as Kenner council positions are considered part-time jobs, Muniz said, "I think the people of Kenner are getting more than their money's worth on Joe Stagni."
Council President Kent Denapolis, a Stagni ally, said Stagni works hard for his district. For example, Denapolis said, when Stagni was elected he fought to get more money for the 2nd District from Community Development Block Grant funds, which previously had been limited to the 1st District.
But Stagni also has stepped out front to sponsor measures with citywide implications, especially on budget matters.
Stagni has long been at odds with Kenner's political establishment and has often clashed with the administration. He backed maverick Phil Capitano over Nick Congemi for mayor in 2004, only to fall out with the Capitano administration and ended up helping Capitano's opponent in 2006.