Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s appointments to the newly restructured Sewerage & Water Board look ready to win easy approval from the City Council on Thursday, the final step in a vetting process that began more than six months ago.
Seven of the mayor’s eight picks for the board have now gained approval from the council’s Governmental Affairs Committee, two during a meeting last week and another five Monday. One candidate hasn’t been cleared by the committee yet because of scheduling conflicts but is expected to be voted on during Thursday’s council meeting. None of them has attracted any criticism thus far.
Councilwoman Stacy Head, the committee’s chairwoman, told the mayor’s appointees on Monday, “Thank you (for) stepping up and being willing to serve and make our city stronger and better.”
The newly constituted board, in line with changes approved by the state Legislature and a voter referendum last year, will have 11 members instead of 13. The three council members who have served on the board will be removed, professional qualifications are now required of most firs-time members and members’ terms have shrunk from nine years to four.
The search for new board members began in late October, when the sitting board voted to kick off the process. A committee of local university presidents and other civic leaders then nominated three applicants for each of the eight appointments, including at least one candidate from each of the city’s five council districts.
From that pool of nominees, Landrieu selected: Scott Jacobs, a mechanical engineer and insurance executive; Robin Barnes, the chief operating officer for Greater New Orleans Inc.; Kerri Kane, a local lawyer; Marion Bracy, the vice president for facility planning and management at Xavier University; Mark Moody, a NASA engineer; Tamika Duplessis, a chemistry instructor at Delgado Community College; Kimberly Thomas, a project manager with the construction company Jacobs/CSRS; and Joseph Peychaud, president of St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory School (formerly Xavier University Preparatory).
Three of the mayor’s selections — Kane, Bracy and Moody — already serve on the board. Two others — Thomas and Peychaud — would serve as “community” or “consumer” advocates, exempted from the new professional requirements.
Two additional members from the city’s Board of Liquidation, City Debt, along with the mayor himself, will round out the full 11-member panel.
In the meantime, a bill in the Legislature that would allow Cedric Grant, the mayor’s choice, to become the Sewerage & Water Board’s next executive director cleared the full Senate on Monday. It now heads to the House.
Grant’s appointment hit a snag last month when the Louisiana Ethics Board issued an advisory opinion ruling that Grant, the deputy mayor for facilities and infrastructure, is barred from taking the job because he has served as Landrieu’s stand-in on the agency’s board for much of the past three years.
A state law bars anyone from serving on a board and then taking a job or contract from that board within two years of stepping down.