Mayor at YWCA lunch

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome greets attendees Monday, June 19, 2017, at a YWCA luncheon held at Woman's Hospital. The mayor spoke about leadership and work-life balance.

Advocate staff photo by Andrea Gallo

Correction: The Advocate on April 22 quoted Neftalie Danier, assistant director of alumni relations for Bernard M. Baruch College, as saying Troy Bell — at the time the newly named chief administrative officer for East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome — did not have a master of public administration degree from that school. Danier said Bell owed money and hadn't completed the necessary coursework. Asked for comment at the time, Bell said that while he had not requested the diploma, he had completed the coursework required for the degree. Bell recently provided The Advocate with a diploma dated 2012 showing he was granted the degree by Baruch. When asked Nov. 29 about the issue, Suzanne Bronski, director of public relations of Baruch College, said Bell did receive the degree, but refused to answer more questions. Bronski said that under federal law, "we are only permitted to release the degree held and the date of the degree awarded."

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said she wanted to address "the elephant in the room" Monday and opened up about her hiring of short-lived former Chief Administrative Officer Troy Bell while she addressed a group of women about leadership and work-life balance.

Broome spoke to a room full of women at a YWCA luncheon related to the nonprofit's mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. She sat in an armchair next to moderator Gerri Hobdy in a Woman's Hospital conference room, and Hobdy asked the mayor-president what qualities she looks for in team members.

Truthfulness was one of the attributes Broome said she wants, saying one of her decisions was "what we call a bad hire." She was referencing Bell, who was hired as the mayor's top deputy in April. He resigned five days later after The Advocate revealed he lied on his resume about a master's degree in public administration he did not hold and had been fired from multiple previous government jobs in other states.

"If you're an honest person, you believe everybody else is going to be an honest person," Broome said. "I'm learning more and more that you have to vet people very intensely these days because everybody is not like you. You deal in integrity and maybe not everybody else deals in integrity."

She said she received support and encouragement after the Bell fiasco from another female business leader and Broome said it highlighted the importance of women encouraging other women. That theme was evident during the lunch meeting.

Throughout Broome and Hobdy's conversation, women in the audience cheered on the mayor-president and told her that they "have her back." Dianna Payton, the CEO of YWCA, described the mayor-president as "a woman who has broken so many glass ceilings," as Broome is the first elected female mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish.

Broome also said she will soon reveal more details about an urban design program for mayors that she is participating in. She said she has identified a corridor in Baton Rouge that could receive a makeover through the program.

Learning how to care for herself while running the city-parish has also been one of Broome's biggest challenges, she said. She has not taken a vacation since she took office in January, she said.

"In this new assignment, I have felt compelled to be everywhere, to make sure people know how much I care about the city and parish," Broome added.

But she said she is learning that she cannot properly take care of her community if she is not taking care of herself, so she is trying to place more emphasis on self-care and turned down a speaking engagement on Mother's Day to give herself a break.

Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​