Highway 23 begins where the world ends.
The wide, four-lane road backs up to a small harbor flanked by a wildlife refuge on one side and land owned by oil and gas giant Chevron Corp. on the other. It is the one way in and out of Venice, La., the unincorporated community that earned its “end of the world” nickname by settling among the distributaries that straddle the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. From that southernmost point, Highway 23 winds north along the water, running the length of Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish. It arrives some 65 miles later in the parish’s biggest town of Belle Chasse, where it veers west past rows of storefronts and restaurants and one imposing blue and black office building.
The man occupying the second floor of that building is talking about roots. Amos Cormier Jr. has only been president of the state’s oldest and largest parish for eight months, but his roots all along Highway 23 run deep. He grew up in Plaquemines Parish and has lived there all his life, just like the generation before him and the generations before that.