The Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday ratified most of the new department directors Parish President Mike Yenni has appointed.
Those approved were Parish Attorney Mike Power, Inspection and Code Enforcement Director Aimee Vallot, Security and Blight Eradication Director Gary Hargroder, Environmental Affairs Director Mike Lockwood, Transit Director Sharon Leader, Community Development Director Tamithia Shaw and Budget Director Victor LaRocca.
An eighth appointee, Emergency Management Director Joseph Valiente, was not considered Wednesday because he was out of town due to a prior obligation, Yenni said. He will be put up for confirmation later this month.
All eight appointees are taking over departments that were headed by others under former President John Young, whom Yenni succeeded on Jan. 6. Yenni retained more than 30 other department heads appointed by Young.
Vallot, Shaw and LaRocca all came over from the municipal government of Kenner, where Yenni was mayor for five years before taking his new job. Lockwood most recently worked with an engineering firm that often works for Kenner and Jefferson.
Hargroder was a lieutenant with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Valiente once commanded the New Orleans Police Department’s special events division, and Leader recently was a disaster recovery analyst for New Orleans.
Also on Wednesday, the council approved reviving two “executive assistant” positions that Young had eliminated from parish government after taking office in 2010.
When hired, one assistant will focus on East Bank matters and the other on West Bank issues. But this year’s budget provides for filling only one of those positions. Keith Conley, Yenni’s top aide, said he did not know who might get that slot.
The executive assistant positions are distinct from the administrative assistants Yenni appointed in mid-December to oversee clusters of departments, such as former Kenner Police Chief Steve Caraway and ex-parish schools Superintendent Diane Roussel.
12 years is enough, VCC director decides
After a dozen years leading the city commission charged with protecting the French Quarter, Lary Hesdorffer retired last week.
Hesdorffer has been the director of the Vieux Carre Commission since 2003.
A 1974 graduate of the Tulane University School of Architecture, he was hired as a VCC building inspector in 1975 and soon moved up to building plans examiner and staff architect and later assistant director.
He then became the staff architect for the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Unit in the Mayor’s Office. In 1982, he joined the city’s Historic District Landmarks Commission, first as deputy director and later as executive director.
In 1997, he moved to Atlanta to become senior director of properties for the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, a private organization. In 2003, Mayor Ray Nagin named him director of the VCC.
Though he did not initially plan a career in historic preservation, Hesdorffer said he was honored to have headed the VCC, the second-oldest preservation agency in the country.
“My hope is that the work of the VCC, particularly with the recent completion of the our updated design guidelines, will be understood better than ever before — making the protection of New Orleans’ oldest and most precious neighborhood a recognized necessity rather than what some may consider optional,” he said. “The value of our city’s historic built environment can’t be underestimated and should never be taken for granted.”
The VCC regulates requests for construction, changes and repairs to buildings in the historic district and issues violation notices to ensure compliance.
City Council members praised Hesdorffer on Thursday at his last appearance before the council.
Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, whose district includes the Quarter, said Hesdorffer was leaving big shoes to fill.
“Lary Hesdorffer has been an unbelievable public servant to the people of New Orleans and great steward to our city’s crown jewel, the historic French Quarter,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement. “His dedication to preserving the historic character of the Vieux Carre has been boundless, and his presence around City Hall will be dearly missed by all.”
A search is underway for the VCC’s next director.
BGR gets new leader for second time in a year
A new leader will be helming the Bureau of Governmental Research starting in March, the second time the watchdog agency has seen turnover in its top spot in less than a year.
Amy Glovinksy, a lawyer and policy adviser for the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, has been tapped as BGR’s new president and CEO. She will replace Celeste Coco-Ewing, who was hired last summer to succeed the group’s longtime president, Janet Howard.
“We are delighted to have Ms. Glovinsky as the new leader of BGR,” BGR Chairman Mark Mayer said in a release. “With years of experience and leadership on public policy issues here in the greater New Orleans area, Amy is impressively qualified to continue and build upon the organization’s strong foundation as the voice of good government in the area.”
While working with the Business Council, Glovinsky launched Forward New Orleans and Forward New Orleans for Public Schools, platforms used to hold officials accountable for their policy decisions.
She also has ties to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, including working on his Transition Task Force and serving as a commissioner on the Civil Service Commission. Before that, she practiced commercial litigation law at Jones Walker LLP.
Coco-Ewing plans to return to legal practice, according to BGR.
“In her time with BGR, Ms. Coco-Ewing provided a smooth transition” from Howard’s long tenure, Mayer said. “We appreciate her many contributions.”
Police chief hopefuls start campaigning early
The election date for the Slidell police chief’s job hasn’t even been set yet, but hopefuls aren’t letting the parade pass them by when it comes to campaigning for the remainder of Randy Smith’s term.
Candidates have been visible on the town’s Carnival parade route, staking out spots with their supporters to get the word out to revelers. Kevin O’Neill, who recently retired from the Slidell Police Department; Randy Fandal, a retired State Police lieutenant, and Tommy Benasco, a Slidell reserve officer, were all out campaigning on the Krewe of Perseus route.
Smith, who defeated longtime incumbent Jack Strain for St. Tammany Parish sheriff in a November runoff, will assume that job July 1 but has not said when he will tender his resignation as chief in Slidell. An election to replace him can’t be called until he does. Officials have said next November is the likely date for the election.
Compiled by Ramon Antonio Vargas, Jeff Adelson and Sara Pagones