New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell and Mayor Mitch Landrieu pledged Tuesday to ensure a seamless transition of power in May, making a joint appearance aimed at showcasing a sense of mutual respect between the two politicians.
Cantrell also assured residents that she will use the next five months to think hard about who she will bring into her administration, pledging to offer more details about key appointments at a later date.
“The mayor and I, in some cases, have not seen to eye to eye, but the bottom line is, we have always come out on top,” Cantrell said.
“With this transition we will not only come out on top, but we will shine for the citizens of the city of New Orleans.”
Landrieu echoed Cantrell in his own remarks and praised the mayor-elect for her determination.
“I’m thrilled with the mayor-elect,” Landrieu said. “We are both passionate, and we are both hard-headed. And I said in the paper the other day, being passionate and hard-headed is a a prerequisite for the city of New Orleans.”
Cantrell confirmed that she would keep her seat on the City Council until she takes office and said that John Pourciau, her chief of staff, will serve as her point man on the transition.
It’s been no secret that Cantrell and Landrieu have sometimes quarreled, including recently over the location and services to be provided by the city’s new low-barrier homeless shelter as well as other issues. She was openly critical of Landrieu on the campaign trail, labeling his style of governing as divisive.
The peaceable display Tuesday was an attempt to quash any notion that they can’t get along when needed. Both, for instance, are expected be involved over the coming months in making decisions about the management of the beleaguered Sewerage & Water Board.
Landrieu, who often cites the chaos he inherited succeeding Ray Nagin in 2010, also intends to leave Cantrell with both the literal and figurative keys to his office, hiring a consulting firm, PFM, to craft transition documents that will get her up to speed on who’s on the payroll, whether departments have been meeting their objectives and other practical matters over the next few months.
What happens next, of course, is up to Cantrell, who has promised continuity with the Landrieu administration in certain respects and also big changes.
She will do away with the deputy mayor system Landrieu employed, for one thing.
On the top issue of crime, she will open a national search for a new police chief, though she has said that current Superintendent Michael Harrison would be invited to apply. Details about that search, along with other governmental appointments, will be released later, she said Tuesday.
“I have received many calls from people who want to work within city government and those who even want to stay on,” Cantrell said.
“So just hold tight. Pretty soon we will be rolling out a plan of action for you.”
She promised an inclusive City Hall, and one that won't be ruled by grudges.
“We’re going to do this thing differently — no areas of being vindictive about who were with me and who were not,” Cantrell said, in a subtle jab at many of her predecessors. “It doesn’t matter. The people of this city will be put first, and we are going to lead by example.”
While she didn’t offer specifics, Cantrell promised to keep to the spirit of the transition process Landrieu adopted when he took office in 2010, in which numerous citizen-led committees met to discuss the city's main priorities and make recommendations to the new administration.
“You will definitely expect the citizens being engaged throughout this transition process,” Cantrell said, referring to her work building coalitions as a grassroots organizer in Broadmoor before she entered government.
Cantrell will take one other important step this month in preparation for her inauguration, she said, heading to Harvard University to attend a seminar on governmental transitions for newly elected mayors.
That seminar is hosted by the Kennedy School of Government and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, of which Landrieu is president. Harvard will foot the bill for the trip.
Cantrell added that she is in no rush to announce other major decisions.
“We owe the public this time to ensure that we will not only have a seamless transition, but that the leadership will be in place come May 2018 to move this city forward,” she said.