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Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Incoming St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith speaks during his inauguration Friday, July 1, 2016, at Church of the King in Mandeville.


St. Tammany’s high turnover in parishwide offices is making it a little hard to keep the names straight.

Rick Franzo, president of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, had to start over as he was being interviewed by WWL-TV at Sheriff Randy Smith’s inauguration Friday morning. He had referred to Smith as “Sheriff Strain,” a reference to Jack Strain, the 20-year incumbent whom Smith defeated.

Then 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery, who was giving the keynote address at Clerk of Court Melissa Henry’s swearing-in Friday afternoon, called the honoree “Melissa Prieto.” Henry was elected last fall to succeed Malise Prieto, who was clerk for 20 years and Henry’s former boss.

The mistake provoked laughter in the crowd of courthouse employees, with a few people murmuring that it was understandable given the similarity in the women’s first names.

When Pastor John Raymond made some closing comments, he looked around the room and thanked the large number of elected officials for being there, including, he said jokingly, “my good friend Walter Montgomery,” intentionally giving the new district attorney the first name of his predecessor, the recently convicted Walter Reed.

Sheriff Strain leaves office on high note

Less than a week before he left office, Sheriff Jack Strain sent out a final news release, saying he was “extremely proud to announce” that the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada had awarded the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.

The award was presented for the agency’s annual financial report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015.

The certificate of achievement is the highest form of recognition for excellence in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, Strain’s announcement said.

It said the Sheriff’s Office’s annual report had been judged to meet the high standards of the association, including demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story.

To be awarded a certificate of achievement, a government agency must publish an easily readable and efficiently organized comprehensive annual financial report that satisfies both generally accepted accounting principles and applicable legal requirements.

“I am extremely pleased that the hard work of Chief Financial Officer Danell Gerchow and the finance staff has earned accolades from this international organization. This award is a testament to their daily determination to serve the residents of St. Tammany in the most professional manner possible,” Strain said.

Affordable housing group names director

The board of directors for HousingNOLA has appointed Andreanecia M. Morris as its executive director. Morris has spent 20 years trying to improve the affordable housing market in New Orleans.

HousingNOLA aims to offer a road map to maximize the effectiveness of government resources, increase nontraditional resources and assist private-sector investors in providing affordable housing in the city.

“The work of HousingNOLA is critical to the future of this city,” City Councilman Jason Williams said. “Morris is the ideal person for this role based on her immense experience working with affordable housing in the city. She is equipped to lead the organization forward on its promise of regenerating access to affordable housing.”

Morris has served as director of communications, marketing manager and director of telecommunications for the Housing Authority of New Orleans; vice president for homeownership and community development for Providence Community Housing; and president and chairwoman of the board of the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance.

Since Hurricane Katrina, she has helped to create opportunities for about 500 families to become first-time homebuyers.

In December 2015, HousingNOLA released a 10-year plan that promised to add 5,000 affordable units to the city by 2021. The plan focused primarily on aiding the rebuilding of some of the 275,000 homes that were destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The plan has since been adopted by the city of New Orleans.

Brossett to advise on infrastructure needs

Gov. John Bel Edwards has appointed New Orleans City Councilman Jared Brossett to the Governor’s Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure Investment.

Edwards signed an executive order officially creating the task force on June 10.

Its job is to address the distribution of money in the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which has a backlog of nearly $12 billion in infrastructure projects. The group will have six months to review the state’s transportation plans and make recommendations on how to best invest in critical infrastructure projects and opportunities throughout the state.

Brossett is chairman of the council’s Transportation and Airport Committee and was formerly a colleague of Edwards in the Legislature.

Brossett said the appointment will let him “highlight the unique needs of our city and help contribute toward solving a statewide infrastructure problem.”

The task force’s responsibilities include making recommendations for achieving sufficient increased levels of recurring funding to address the backlog in highway and bridge maintenance needs in the state and to build “megaprojects” included in the Louisiana Statewide Transportation Plan.

Compiled by Sara Pagones and Bruce Eggler