Former WWL-TV journalist Antwan Harris hired to be new Jefferson Parish spokesman _lowres

Antwan Harris

A four-month search for a new Jefferson Parish government public information officer ended this week when former WWL-TV news reporter and weekend anchor Antwan Harris was hired for the job.

Parish President Mike Yenni announced on Monday that Harris would be the successor to former parish spokeswoman Kriss Fairbairn Fortunato, who left Jefferson in January.

In a statement announcing the hire Monday, Yenni cited the 3,000-plus followers that Harris, 35, had amassed on Twitter. Yenni also made note of various broadcast journalism awards Harris has earned during a career that has seen him work for WWL-TV as well as NBC affiliates in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Macon, Georgia.

“I know that Antwan will improve the parish’s ability to disseminate information to the public in a timely and accurate manner,” Yenni said. “I am especially pleased that he shares many of my beliefs regarding public access television and its ability to be more inviting and impactful than it is today.”

For his part, Harris — who spent almost three years at WWL-TV — said in a statement that he was proud to get a chance to work alongside skilled, knowledgeable people “who are passionate about Jefferson Parish.”

Harris received a bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies from Eastern Michigan University in 2003. The native of Flint, Michigan, earned a broadcast certification in that same field from the Atlanta Broadcast Institute four years later.

Harris’ wife is from New Orleans, and he dedicates some of his free time for organizations such as Boys Town Louisiana and 100 Black Men of Metro New Orleans, Yenni said.

Harris’ predecessor Fortunato, herself a television news journalist, was hired as PIO after John Young was elected parish president in 2010. Young unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor, and Fortunato left her post in parish government less than a week after her ex-boss was replaced by Yenni.

Fortunato then spent about three months working as Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s public relations director before stepping down — in part, she said, to concentrate on building up a private communications firm.

Following Fortunato’s departure from Jefferson’s government, Rhonda Collins handled media requests on an interim basis.

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This item will appear in The New Orleans Advocate’s politics column, which runs each weekend.