|Victor Theodore "Vic" Stelly|
Member of the Louisiana
Board of Regents for Higher Education
2007 – June 2011
Louisiana State Representative
for District 35 (Calcasieu Parish)
1988 – 2004
|Preceded by||Margaret Lowenthal|
|Succeeded by||Brett Geymann|
Member of the
Calcasieu Parish School Board
1983 – 1987
|Born|| January 11, 1941|
Place of birth missing
|Died||December 26, 2020 (aged 79)|
|Spouse(s)||Terry Bass Stelly (married 1960-2020, his death) (She died fifteen hours after her husband's passing.)|
|Children|| Three children,
including Victor Todd Stelly
|Alma mater|| Zachary (Louisiana)|
|Occupation||Businessman; former educator|
Victor Theodore Stelly, known as Vic Stelly (January 11, 1941 – December 26, 2020), was a retired businessman from Lake Charles, Louisiana, a former member of the Louisiana Board of Regents for Higher Education, and from 1988 to 2004 a Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for District 35 in Calcasieu Parish in the southwestern corner of his state.
He was best known for the since repealed Stelly Plan state tax-shifting amendment.
Stelly spent his earliest years in Carencro, a small city in Lafayette Parish until he moved at the age of four with his parents to Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish. His father, Gordon, was a petro-chemical operator; his mother, Dot, was a homemaker. He played football and graduated from Zachary High School. Stelly then enrolled at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, where he also played football. He majored in physical education and minored in mathematics. At Northwestern, he met his future wife, the former Terry Bass, whom he wed in 1960. After graduation from Northwestern, Stelly taught at Redemporist and Broadmoor high schools in Baton Rouge. In 1965, he obtained a Master of Arts degree from Louisiana State University. From 1970 to 1974, he was an assistant football coach at McNeese State University in Lake Charles.
After his teaching career ended in 1974, Stelly became an insurance and real estate agent in Moss Bluff, north of Lake Charles. He was later an administrator at McNeese State University, at which he also took postgraduate courses. He is the past president of the McNeese 100 Club. From 1983 to 1987, Stelly served on the Calcasieu Parish School Board. He ran for the board after the tragic burning in 1981 of Sam Houston High School in Moss Bluff, which had to be rebuilt. He was a Roman Catholic.
His Stelly Plan, of which he was the only legislative author, was a 2002 constitutional amendment which increased state income taxes with a simultaneous reduction in otherwise "temporary" state sales taxes on food and utilities. Though the Stelly Plan also referred to "drugs," Louisiana does not tax prescription drugs but does fully tax over-the-counter products.
Thereafter, many voters rebelled against the plan, claimed that they had been deceived, and many legislative candidates ran successfully in 2007 on a platform to repeal it. For many middle-class taxpayers, the additional amount paid in income taxes exceeded the sales tax "savings." The legislature voted in 2008 to eliminate the income tax increases, then determined to be a potential loss of $380 million to the state treasury. The actual rollback of the income tax increases began early in 2009.
In the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 24, 1987, Stelly ran for representative against two Democrats, the two-term incumbent, Margaret Welsh Lowenthal, and Ken Brown. Stelly led in the first round of balloting, 6,717 (42.7 percent), and went into the official general election with Lowenthal, who trailed with 5,802 (36.9 percent). Ken Brown received 3,226 votes (a critical 20.5 percent). In the showdown, Stelly defeated Lowenthal, 5,509 (55.9 percent) to 4,348 (44.1 percent), to claim the state House seat. In the 1991 primary, Stelly defeated Democrat Newton Blanchard "Sonny" Powell, Jr., a Calcasieu Parish deputy sheriff for public relations, 8,4890 (63.1 percent) to 4,966 (36.9 percent). Powell (born March 1, 1935) subsequently retired to his native Ashland in northern Natchitoches Parish. He is the older of two sons of Napoleon Bonaparte Powell, Sr. (1904–1971), and the former Marie Weaver (1907–2001), who was a long-term elementary school teacher at the former Ashland High School.
Stelly was unopposed in the 1995 and 1999 primaries but did not seek a fifth term in 2003. He was succeeded by a conservative Republican, Brett Geymann, who with nearly 54 percent of the vote defeated two Democratic opponents.
In 2003, as his legislative career wound down, Stelly was "roasted" by the Moss Bluff Civic Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars as a fund raiser to install a monument to former Governor Sam Houston Jones at the Jones State Park in Moss Bluff. Though a native of Beauregard Parish, Sam Jones practiced law for many years in Lake Charles. Stelly's roasters included his legislative colleagues, state Senator Willie Mount (female) and Representative Randy Roach, both Democrats who went on to serve as the mayor of Lake Charles.
In recent years, recipients of Stelly's personal campaign contributions have included former State Senator Robert Barham of Oak Ridge in Morehouse Parish, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican in 2002 for Louisiana's 5th congressional district seat. Victory went to the Democrat Rodney Alexander, who later switched to Republican affiliation. Stelly also donated to former state Senator Willie Mount, who ran unsuccessfully for Louisiana's 7th congressional district, seat and Republican former U.S. Representative Charles Boustany, Jr. of Lafayette, who defeated Mount in 2004 for the congressional seat. Stelly contributed in 2008 to John Neely Kennedy, the Republican state treasurer who failed in his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of New Orleans. Kennedy, however, won the other Senate seat when David Vitter declined in 2016 to seek a third term in the wake of his 2015 defeat by John Bel Edwards.
In 2006, Stelly was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield, a relatively rare honor for a political figure whose career has been confined to the state House of Representatives. In addition to the Stelly Plan, the museum exhibit notes that Stelly declined to enroll himself in the legislative retirement and health insurance plans. He is depicted as an "intelligent, reasonable and accessible legislator who was active in efforts to bring major structural changes to much of the state government [and] strongly supported tightening ethics laws for public officials ..."
Early in 2007, Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco of Lafayette named Stelly to the Board of Regents, a body which consists of both elected and appointed members. He held the seat on the board from the since disbanded 7th congressional district seat. In June 2011, Stelly resigned from the Board of Regents with six months remaining in his term. In an email to his fellow Regents, Stelly said that repeated budget cuts to universities had left him too disillusioned to remain in the position: "I can't see how being frustrated and negative for six more months is to anyone's benefit."
Two weeks after his resignation from the regents, Stelly spoke before the Press Club of Baton Rouge. He argued that Louisiana could control its budget were it to halt many tax exemptions that benefit corporations and individuals: "We’re giving away the store." Before the Press Club, Stelly explained that he grew discouraged with higher education funding cuts and back-to-back tuition hikes since 2008. He described the first five years in office of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal as "very self serving."
Stelly was a director of Jeff Davis Bank in Jennings in Jefferson Davis Parish.The bank vice president was his former legislative colleague, Gerald J. Theunissen. Stelly is also a member of the interest group, the Council for a Better Louisiana.
Death and legacy
Former colleagues Ronnie Johns and Dan "Blade" Morrish paid tribute to their friend. Johns said that Stelly built relationships with colleagues: “He was never an obstructionist, but always a coalition builder ... Nobody exemplified integrity more than Vic Stelly." Morrish also served alongside Stelly after winning his first House term in 1996. Morrish said that Stelly taught him "the right way to handle yourself in the legislature. The word 'great' is not enough to describe what he was.”
Mike Danahay, the mayor of Sulphur in Calcasieu Parish and a former state representative, said that Stelly: “gave his all in serving the public of Southwest Louisiana and the entirety of our state. “Vic was a fine gentleman and a true statesman. He will always be remembered as a man of great integrity and conviction.”
Stelly's public papers are available at the Lether Frazar Memorial Library, named for the former president of McNeese State University and the lieutenant governor in the final term of Governor Earl Kemp Long.
- Board of Regents: Victor T. Stelly. regents.la.gov. Retrieved on October 30, 2009.
- Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, `1812-2020 (Calcasieu Parish). Louisiana House of Representatives. Retrieved on September 25, 2019.
- Scott E. Raymond (November 4, 2016). Vic Stelly: The Life and Career of a Southern Gentleman. Best of Southwestern Louisiana. Retrieved on September 25, 2019.
- "House District 35," Louisiana Encyclopedia (1999).
- The Vic Stelly Papers. library.mcneese.edu. Retrieved on October 26, 2009; no longer on-line..
- Tim Morris, "House votes to roll back Stelly Plan taxes," The New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 4, 2008.
- Stelly Plan action: Bad timing. The Lafayette Daily Advertiser (January 5, 2009). Retrieved on October 26, 2009; no longer on-line..
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, Ocrober 24, 1987.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 21, 1987.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Primary election returns, October 19, 1991.
- M. Yvonne Coffey (1937-2012), Hathorn Cemetery, Ashland, Louisiana, 2003, p. 46-47.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Legislative Election Returns, October 4, 2003.
- Vic Stelly from Zip Code 70611. Watchdog.net. Retrieved on October 26, 2009; no longer on-line..
- "Victor "Vic" Stelly". lapoliticalmuseum.com. Retrieved on October 26, 2009.
- Former state lawmaker leaves higher education board. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on June 15, 2012; no longer on-line..
- Michelle Millhollon. Stelly: Tax deals cost La.: Former representative criticizes Jindal. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on July 3, 2012; no longer on-line..
- Paul Cobler (December 28, 2020). Former legislator Vic Stelly, wife Terry die from coronavirus hours apart: 'They were inseparable.'. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on December 29, 2020.
- John Guidroz (December 26, 2020). Former four-term state legislator Stelly dies of COVID. The Lake Charles American Press. Retrieved on December 28, 2020.