Sandra Thompson

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Sandra Smith "Sandy" Thompson​

(Louisiana conservationist,
government administrator,
and businesswoman)

Born October 4, 1946​
Monroe,Louisiana, USA

Resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana ​

Political Party Democrat-turned-Republican
Spouse ​Name of spouse unavailable

Two children ​

Religion Church of Christ

Sandra Smith Thompson, sometimes known as Sandy Thompson and formerly as Sandra S. Williams (born October 4, 1946), is a former Louisiana state administrator and conservationist who is the former director of the Atchafalaya River Basin Program, which encompasses a million acres and is the largest bottomland swamp in North America.​


Thompson was reared on a farm near Monroe in Ouachita Parish in northeast Louisiana. She graduated in 1964 from Neville High School in Monroe and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. She procured a Master of Business Administration degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.[1]

Her career in state government began in the 1970s when she worked in the office of then Secretary of State Wade Ober Martin, Jr. She was named director of the Atchafalaya Basin Division of the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. In 1978, Thompson was dismissed from the Department Culture, Recreation and Tourism in 1978 because of disputes with her undersecretaries.[2] The lieutenant governor now heads the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. The Atchafalaya project, which encompassing a million acres, is the largest bottomland swamp in North America.

After Thompson left the Atchafalaya program, she ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for secretary of state. The position became open when Wade Martin's successor, Paul Hardy, then of St. Martinville, ran unsuccessfully for governor. Nine years later, Hardy was elected lieutenant governor in 1988. Thompson went into a general election with fellow Democrat, then state Senator James H. "Jim" Brown, then of Ferriday in Concordia Parish. She had a considerable lead in the nonpartisan blanket primary but fell unexpectedly short in the second round of balloting.​ In the primary, Thompson polled 504,808 votes (40.8 percent) to Brown's 391,849 ballots (31.7 percent). An African-American candidate, Ben Jeffers, received 253,764 votes (20.5 percent). Republican candidate Dick Bruce, a then New Orleans advertising executive born in 1924 who stressed tourism and international trade, polled 85,870 votes (6.9 percent).[3] In 1971, Bruce had run unsuccessfully in the race to succeed Lieutenant Governor Clarence C. "Taddy" Aycock.[4]

Therefore, Jim Brown secured nearly all of the votes obtained by Jeffers, and most of Bruce's supporters presumably switched to Thompson. Brown won the general election with 665,608 votes (51.1 percent) to Thompson's 617,907 (48.9 percent). The percent for Brown and Jeffers from the primary was a combined 52.2 percent, or 1.1 percentage points more than what Brown finally received in the final phase of the race. Thompson and Bruce in the first round of balloting had a combined 47.7 percent, or 1.2 percentage points below what Thompson finally received.[5] For years, Thompson said that she never expected to lose the race to Brown. In 1983, she attempted to unseat East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court Hugh Michael "Mike" Cannon (born January 27, 1945), a fellow Democrat since in private business. Though she ran well enough to make the general election, she again was defeated.​[6]

After the secretary of state's race, Thompson owned and operated an oilfield trucking company in Baton Rouge. Republican Governor Mike Foster, called her back to state government in 1996 to work in his new administration. She was named director of the Atchafalaya Basin Program, when it was re-established in 1998 by state law as a 15-year plan to work with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and other entities for the federally sponsored Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System.​ In the Atchafalaya project during the Foster administration, Thompson worked under Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge. The media reported stories of strains in their professional relationship, and it was suggested that Thompson wanted to succeed Angelle, then a Democrat but later a Republican, in the Bobby Jindal administration.[7] In May 2010, Jindal announced the appointment of Angelle to serve on an interim basis as lieutenant governor until a special election was held in October 2010 to fill the remaining months of the term of Mitch Landrieu, who left upon his election as the mayor of New Orleans, a post he vacated in 2019. Victory went to then Secretary of State Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge, who in 2016 became the state commissioner of administration under Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.​

Thompson has been active in many conservation endeavors. She is an officer of the Louisiana Sierra Club.[8] She has twice secured the "Professional Conservationist of the Year" award from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, most recently in 1999. She also won the Lyndon B. Johnson National Award for excellence in the field of the environment.​ Thompson describes her management style as one of macromanagement: "Most successful leaders don't micromanage. What we tried to do with the Atchafalaya Program is hire the very best architects, engineers, and designers and tell them, 'Give me your best. I’m not going to micromanage you.'"​


  1. Sandra S. Thompson. Retrieved on April 20, 2019.
  2. Dismissal of Sandra Thompson (1978). Retrieved on April 20, 2019.
  3. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 6, 1979.
  4. Minden Press-Herald, November 6, 1971.
  5. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, December 16, 1971.
  6. Louisianan Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 22, 1983.
  7. Steven K. Landry (September 4, 2007; no longer on-line.). Ex-Atchafalaya Basin official looks ahead: Sandra Thompson helps Jindal campaign. The Baton Rouge Advocate (Acadiana Edition).
  8. Sierra Club Delta Chapter. Retrieved on April 20, 2019.