Darryl Gissel has his marching orders — hire a police chief, promote local minority- and women-owned businesses and figure out how best to spend millions of dollars of federal infrastructure money.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome officially on Thursday named Gissel, a real estate developer and one-time mayoral candidate, to be her chief administrative officer.
Broome called Gissel an "adviser and trusted friend" whom she will rely upon to tackle police reform, business equity and flood recovery. He officially starts Monday and will spend two weeks with interim chief Jim Llorens before taking over the position himself.
In an interview afterward, Broome discussed her aspirations for the administration, now ten months into her term.
Candidates vying to become the city's next police chief took the required civil service exam a few days ago, and the mayor said she expects the results to be returned in four to six weeks.
Gissel will help put together a civilian review board to help her choose the next chief, though Broome said she also plans to announce the finalists to the public so anyone can weigh in, perhaps at a forum or town hall event.
Broome said she wants a chief who will institute changes in the force.
"I feel like I have tried to change the status quo, and people have gotten very angry. ... People get very personal," she said. "Change is not always well-received."
The position is open due to the retirement of former chief Carl Dabadie.
Broome had called for his dismissal while on the campaign trail but was unable to fire him once elected due to civil service laws. However, after a few months working together, the former chief stepped down, hinting that tension with Broome was a factor.
The mayor was less eager during an interview on Wednesday to wade into other political waters. For example, she took a meeting a few months ago with St. George organizers who want to incorporate a new city but said some of their concerns may be better answered by the school superintendent.
"My position is, I want Baton Rouge to stay together," she said.
Broome's biggest push thus far since becoming mayor-president was for a new tax to repair and upgrade the parish's roads. However, the Metro Council voted against putting the measure on the ballot, and several members said business sector lobbyists who might have been expected to show up to promote the project sat on the sidelines.
Broome suggested she would be interested in coming back with another proposal. Gissel may be able to help.
The chief administrative officer position is a critical one because that's the person ultimately in charge of running day-to-day city-parish operations and serving as a go-between among the executive branch and the Metro Council, said councilwoman Tara Wicker, who represents Spanish Town, where Gissel has heavily invested.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said she wanted to address "the elephant in the room" M…
Council members contacted for this story — including Wicker, LaMont Cole, Chandler Loupe, Dwight Hudson, Donna Collins-Lewis, Buddy Amoroso and Barbara Freiberg — said they knew of Gissel from his mayoral run but didn't have personal relationships with him.
The new chief administrative officer said one of his first tasks will be to meet with all of them and look for ways to improve each of their districts.
He wants to use downtown as a template for other areas seeking revitalization — especially north of Florida Boulevard.
"You want to see that same vibrancy all over the city," he said.
But he warned that it's a daunting process. The man sometimes known as the Mayor of Spanish Town said downtown revitalization has been a decades-long struggle.
Darryl Gissel's vintage Arts and Crafts home was built in Spanish Town in the early part of…
Gissel is still involved in street-level advocacy, remarking to reporters that as a resident, he is still waiting for blight court officials to call him back about an issue he spotted and wants to correct.
One particular way Broome has promised to spur north Baton Rouge growth is by promoting small minority- and women-owned businesses, sometimes known as Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, or DBEs.
Gissel, himself a white businessman, will help improve the city-parish's DBE program by helping those companies find government contracts for which they can compete and by studying best practices in other communities, Broome said.
Several of Broome's department heads who have worked with Gissel in the past look forward to employing his business acumen. Transportation and Drainage director Fred Raiford praised the hire, and Downtown Development Director Davis Rhorer called it "brilliant."
Gissel is successful, knowledgeable about local issues and able to work with Democrats and Republicans, Rhorer said. In fact, the new chief administrative officer was once a Republican activist, though he ran for mayor without a party affiliation, saying he wanted his campaign to be inclusive. Now he'll begin work for a Democrat.
During a conversation about dissatisfaction among some who wanted to create a new city of St. George, he discussed his broader philosophy, saying he needs to make sure that "everyone has a seat at the table but nobody hogs all the seats."
Gissel and Broome will also have to contend with their neighbors across the Amite River and Bayou Manchac.
Ascension, Livingston and East Baton Rouge Parishes all stand to receive millions of dollars of federal infrastructure money as a result of last year's flood. Parish leaders have agreed to pool their resources to address regional projects, but now the rubber is starting to hit the road.
Ascension has led the charge to dredge Bayou Manchac, which Broome has supported. Livingston is ready to start a tab wherein they'll help pay for part of the Comite River Diversion Canal if the other parishes chip in specific amounts; they also want all the parishes to kick in funds to help repair a weir that affects the flow of the Amite River.
East Baton Rouge officials haven't agreed to any hard numbers, at least in part because they're awaiting the results of an engineering firm's storm water master plan. However, Broome said that part of Gissel's new job would be to decide how to best distribute those funds to prevent future flooding.
Gissel becomes the fourth chief administrative officer of Broome's 10-month-old administration. Her predecessor's chief deputy, William Daniel, served on an interim basis until she hired Troy Bell, who resigned a few days later after the Advocate published story revealing he lied on his resume. Bell was replaced by Llorens, a former Southern University Chancellor, again on an interim basis.