The Department of Public Works as Baton Rougeans know it should complete its transition into six separate city-parish departments by the end of this month.
The plan to replace one Department of Public Works director with six branch heads was pitched as revenue neutral, but the new department heads will make higher combined salaries than former DPW interim director Bryan Harmon. Harmon earned about $165,000 a year, said William Daniel, city-parish chief administrative officer.
Despite the new top-level positions paying high salaries, Daniel said, the reorganization still should not cost the city-parish more money because it will eliminate many middle manager positions.
Salary information was available only for the new workers who have started their jobs, according to numbers on Open Data BR.
The six new leaders are:
Carey Chauvin, who already works for the city-parish, takes over as interim development director and assistant chief administrative officer. He is in charge of permitting, code enforcement for blight, reviewing flood plain maps and more. He has already started the job and earns about $127,000 a year.
David Childress is the director of fleet management, in charge of acquiring, repairing and maintaining vehicles. Childress has fleet management experience with trucking and utilities companies. He has already started the job, and he earns about $107,000 annually.
Karen Khonsari is the environmental services director, in charge of the sewer and wastewater divisions. Khonsari has worked in both public and private sectors and previously worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She has already begun her job. Her salary is about $135,000 a year.
Stephanie Rivers is the head of buildings and grounds, responsible for all city-parish infrastructure. Rivers is a military officer, and she has worked for the Department of Defense. She has already started her job, and her salary is about $117,000 a year.
Steve Bonnette is the transportation and drainage director, overseeing traffic engineering, construction improvement and more. He has a background as an engineer and product manager, and he is the senior vice president of a Texas engineering firm. His salary was not yet available.
Chris Burnett is the maintenance director, supervising and coordinating drainage, landscape and street work. He has a background in manufacturing operations. Burnett’s salary was not yet available.
All of the new employees also will receive a $4,800 annual car allowance or a city-parish vehicle.
Daniel said the transition to the new structure is already producing results.
“It’s already paying dividends because we see an increased level of oversight in the departments, and they’re already seeing ways that we can become much more efficient,” he said.
Voters approved breaking up DPW into smaller departments in a December election. While the changes are meant to make a world of a difference inside city government, an outside observer may not notice them.
Daniel said it may be easier for residents to get in touch with the right person now when they have complaints.
“The hope is that the casual observer will notice that services are being provided more efficiently, but I would say other than that, most citizens won’t notice the difference,” Daniel said.
Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.