??Gov. Bobby Jindal continues to garner praise for his handling of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and the key to his success may have been some strategic hires the governor made earlier this year. Few would have suggested then that Jindal was building a Category 5 administrative team, but some say the analogy is warranted.
Administratively, Jindal survived Hurricanes Gustav and Ike by having the right human resources in place and, more importantly, knowing how to manage them. “What a novel idea, especially in government,” says a giggling Merrie Spaeth, CEO of the Dallas-based Spaeth Communications, a business consulting firm that specializes in crisis management, among other things. “This is a case study of hiring people with skills, rather than people who want to be politically correct. That was also a lesson learned from Katrina. But if you have the right people in place and are actually listening to them, the management part isn’t all that difficult sometimes.”
??For secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, Jindal brought aboard Alan Levine, who had experience working in the health-care field during hurricanes as the former administrator at the North Broward Hospital District in Florida. The governor hired Mark Cooper as the director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Cooper was previously the deputy fire chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department and managed a $1 billion budget. After Hurricane Gustav made landfall, Jindal decided to launch a program to distribute nearly 400 generators to essential service providers, including pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores. Rather than having a staffer take on the task, he handed it to a rainmaker, someone who could get phone calls returned — Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle. Coincidentally, Angelle is a holdover from the administration of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The decision had an immediate impact.
??Additionally, Jindal’s point person on the ground in New Orleans was Paul Rainwater, the new executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. On paper, it looks as though Jindal shipped a bureaucrat off to ground zero, but Rainwater is a combat-decorated lieutenant colonel in the Louisiana National Guard who was deployed to both Kuwait and Iraq. He also was the chief administrative officer for the city of Lake Charles and stood knee-deep in the mess that was Hurricane Rita. In the aftermath of Gustav and Ike, there was even a role for the governor’s wife, Supriya Jindal. She visited a number of distribution locations and soup kitchens around the state, no doubt sending reports directly back to Louisiana’s CEO. She has also played a key role in food drives for the hurricane-impacted areas. — Alford