The ring that is the 2019 Covington mayor’s race is barely visible in the hazy future, but one candidate already has thrown his hat into it.
City Councilman Rick Smith has announced that he intends to seek the seat now occupied by Mayor Mike Cooper, who will be unable to run again because of term limits.
Smith was re-elected to his District E council seat in March 2015.
The 60-year-old Smith said he thought it was important to get his name out there first in what he expects will be a crowded race for mayor.
“I want to lock in early support and let the people of Covington know that I’m ready to serve them in a new capacity after the next election,” he said.
Smith cited his tenure on the council as an era of good working relationships and improvements to Covington’s infrastructure, public safety and the economy.
He said he has contacted 300 supporters to let them know his plans and will hold a kickoff fundraiser this month.
Watchdog leader often is late paying taxes
Franzo has long been the public face of Concerned Citizens, a government watchdog group that frequently criticizes officials for what it considers wasteful or excessive public spending.
The nola.com story, which cites documents obtained through a public records request, said Franzo has been late paying property taxes on his Lacombe home every year since 2011. He paid the taxes due on Dec. 31 of last year just this past week, the story said.
On another property he owns, on First Street in Slidell, Franzo’s last payment was in July 2014 for the 2013 taxes, the story said.
In a phone interview, Franzo acknowledged paying his taxes late and said it was unavoidable.
“I pay late because I sometimes have no choice,” he said, citing slowdowns in the shipping business. Franzo and his brother run a shipping company.
“We’ve had some really tough times,” he said.
But he bristled at the attention his delinquency was getting. “I’m not a politician. It’s my personal life,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair that I am being picked on.”
He added that he always pays the penalty when he pays late.
Franzo said that since the nola.com story appeared, he has “taken care of” the back taxes on the Slidell property and that his business seems to be improving.
“Hopefully, I am not going to have to (pay taxes late) anymore,” he said.
Former Jefferson Parish attorneys in new jobs
Although they were at the forefront of the negotiations to lease the Jefferson Parish-owned hospital in Marrero to a private operator last year, Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee and Deputy Parish Attorney Edward Rapier did not stay in their jobs after Mike Yenni took office as parish president in January.
But both Foshee and Rapier have landed in new government jobs.
Foshee joined state Attorney General Jeff Landry’s staff as the deputy New Orleans litigation office chief a couple of months ago.
Meanwhile, the Kenner City Council on Thursday hired Rapier as an assistant city attorney. He will replace Renee Hatch Aguilar, who left to take a job as the deputy judicial administrator at the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna.
Former parish President John Young hired Foshee as parish attorney in 2010. Rapier joined Foshee’s department about two years later.
It fell to them to lead the parish’s efforts to close the deal to lease the financially ailing West Jefferson Medical Center to LCMC Health of New Orleans for at least 45 years in return for about a half-billion dollars in lease fees and building improvements.
The process of closing the transaction often was contentious, but parish officials ultimately praised the deal.
Nonetheless, when Young left office in January and was succeeded by former Kenner Mayor Yenni, Foshee was replaced by Mike Power, who was Yenni’s city attorney in Kenner. Rapier also left about the time Foshee did.
Kenner finance chief to retire after 28 years
Kenner’s last five elected mayors have come and gone, but the director of the city’s Finance Department has remained the same: Duke McConnell.
That will change at the end of the month, when McConnell, 61, retires after 28 years working for the city.
McConnell was the municipality’s chief financial officer under Mayors Aaron Broussard, Louis Congemi, Phil Capitano, Ed Muniz and Mike Yenni.
He said he is proud that Kenner’s finances have mostly been strong in his time with the city.
“All the mayors have been good to work for,” McConnell said. “The city’s a good place to work.”
But he said he was looking forward to being able to fish more, to be around his grandchildren more and to engage in activities more leisurely than monitoring the financial health of the sixth-largest city in Louisiana.
The Kenner City Council last month selected McConnell’s assistant director, Jean Caillouet, to take over the Finance Department beginning July 1.
“Jean’s been a CPA for 45 years. He has a wide range of experience and will do great,” McConnell said.
Yenni left office in January to become president of Jefferson Parish, so McConnell’s last day will be under interim Mayor Mike Sigur, whose term also ends June 30. Councilman Dominick Impastato’s temporary mayoral stint begins July 1, Caillouet’s first day.
Compiled by Faimon A. Roberts III and Ramon Antonio Vargas