Central’s mayor taps retired city-parish DPW chief Pete Newkirk as new chief administrative officer _lowres

Pete Newkirk

The city of Central has a new chief administrative officer after a controversial parting of ways in August between Mayor Jr. Shelton and former CAO David Barrow.

Shelton announced Wednesday that he tapped East Baton Rouge’s former longtime Department of Public Works director Pete Newkirk as the city’s new chief administrative officer. Newkirk retired as East Baton Rouge’s public works director in March 2011.

Shelton’s firing of Barrow coincided with the timing of contentious plans to build an upscale traditional neighborhood development called the Settlement at Shoe Creek on Sullivan Road. In August, Shelton denied speculation that Barrow’s dismissal was related to disagreements about Shoe Creek.

Speaking about his professional relationship with Barrow, Shelton said “It doesn’t work anymore.” Barrow has not spoken publicly about his termination.

Newkirk worked in Baton Rouge’s Department of Public Works for 29 years. He was the director for six years and also served as assistant director, chief building official and head of the permitting office.

Newkirk will be responsible for drafting plans to improve the city’s infrastructure and briefing Shelton and the council on the projects. Shelton said Newkirk’s experience would be vital in helping Central build needed infrastructure and in expediting projects.

“His work ethic and expertise is much needed in that position,” Shelton said in a news release.

Shelton revamped the chief administrative officer position, and Newkirk will work part time.

Newkirk also will serve as a go-between for the city of Central, the state’s Department of Transportation and Development, and the city-parish’s several departments that used to make up the Department of Public Works.

Three Central residents sued Shelton and some City Council members in August over the Settlement at Shoe Creek development. They argued that the city violated its own zoning ordinances to go forward with the development, and they asked 19th Judicial District Judge Wilson Fields to temporarily stop progress on the development.

Fields ruled there wasn’t enough evidence that Central’s leaders were acting outside of the scope of their duties when they approved the development. He allowed progress on Shoe Creek to continue but set an Oct. 23 hearing to permanently take up the matter.