Andy Kopplin, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s top deputy and the man responsible for daily operations and budgeting at City Hall for the past six years, is leaving the Landrieu administration to run one of the region’s largest foundations.
Kopplin, 50, will become president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation in mid-August, replacing longtime head Albert Ruesga, officials said Friday.
Despite a lack of academic experience, Kopplin recently sought but failed to gain appointment as president of the University of New Orleans, indicating his desire to move on.
Under the revamped chain of command Landrieu introduced when he became mayor in May 2010, many traditional duties of the chief administrative officer, long the No. 1 appointed position in city government, were split among five other deputy mayors. Still, Kopplin’s dual title of chief administrative officer and first deputy mayor made him the first among equals, Landrieu has said.
Kopplin oversaw dozens of city departments, took the lead in eradicating a $100 million deficit left from Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration and acted as a central player in the resolution of several conflicts with far-reaching implications for the city, such as the firefighters pension settlement and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office consent decree.
“For the past six years, Andy has helped turn around the city’s finances, build innovation in city government and rebuild our great city,” Landrieu said. “Put simply, he helped save the city from bankruptcy in 2010 and put us on a path of financial stability. The turnaround of this city ... post-Katrina would not be possible without Andy’s strategic thinking and thoughtful leadership.”
“I cannot express enough my gratitude to the mayor for giving me this incredible opportunity and honor to work alongside such an extraordinary team of public servants at City Hall on behalf of the people of New Orleans,” Kopplin said.
He will be replaced by Jeff Hebert, the head of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and the city’s chief resilience officer.
Hebert’s current tasks will fall, at least in the short term, to Brenda Breaux, the Redevelopment Authority’s chief operating officer.
“I look forward to this incredible opportunity to build on the foundation’s past successes and to assert its leadership in the future,” Kopplin said of his new job. His predecessor, Ruesga, plans to work in France in nonprofit consulting.
Kopplin’s reputation as a master of both the administration’s major strategic goals and a wealth of budgetary and bureaucratic details likely played a role in the foundation’s choice.
Tasked with monitoring the city’s coffers, Kopplin worked with the mayor to erase the huge deficit they inherited in 2010 and consistently produced balanced annual budgets in the years since — work that led to three Standard & Poor’s upgrades of the city’s bond rating.
Kopplin also served as a key player in years of negotiations that eventually led to sweeping changes in the firefighters pension system, a move city officials said will save taxpayers millions of dollars in the coming years.
Kopplin also led the mayor’s effort to improve the organization of city departments through data-driven performance reviews, popularly known as the “CitySTAT” initiative. Under Kopplin’s leadership, contract processing time has been cut in half, and police recruitment and hiring times have been cut by one-third, city officials said.
He also played a central role in criminal justice reforms, leading Landrieu’s charge to reform the New Orleans Police Department’s off-duty paid detail system — long rife with corruption — and creating an office in City Hall to manage paid details. He also led the working group tasked with determining the proper size for the Orleans Parish jail and was a member of the team that negotiated Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s consent decree settlement.
Before joining City Hall in 2010, Kopplin was a top official at Teach for America, the national teacher recruitment organization. He previously served as executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the agency that led the state’s recovery efforts after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and as chief of staff to two consecutive governors, Republican Mike Foster and Democrat Kathleen Blanco.
Kopplin holds a bachelor’s degree from Rice University and a master’s in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.