The Independent Weekly assesses the performance of LCG’s 13 department heads
While there are certainly areas in need of improvement, local government is working — and it’s working very well. On the heels of our leadership stories on City-Parish President Joey Durel and the consolidated council, this week we grade Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 13 department heads. Their overall grade: B+.
For 12 of these leaders, we did not have trouble getting employees within the walls of government to speak to us on condition of anonymity, but that was not the case with the police department. Surveys went out but were not returned, and we were unable to grade Police Chief Jim Craft without some insight from the department. He gets the only “Incomplete.”
Our grades, ranging from an A to a D, were based on our interaction with these supervisors but were significantly influenced by feedback from a panel of Lafayette Parish residents from public and private sectors whose local government insight and assistance we value. All of our panelists are actively engaged in Lafayette’s civic life and share a concern for its future. We assured them anonymity because we wanted frankness.
Still, the assessments are those of the staff of The Independent Weekly.
We got a significant amount of feedback from the directors themselves, with all but Fire Chief Robert Benoit responding to a short questionnaire we sent them. Most of the directors provided well-thought out, detailed responses, and while we were unable to publish their replies in their entirety, their answers informed our reporting. They were asked to list their top five accomplishments, the major challenges facing their department, their department’s strengths and weaknesses, their major goals and how long they would take to implement and if they could change one aspect of government what that would be.
We did not evaluate the Civil Service director because our focus is leadership. Neither the administration nor the council has a say in the composition of the Civil Service board or the employment/supervision of Civil Service Director Mike Sands (notwithstanding the fact that Civil Service has a greater impact on LCG employment than the human resources department).
CFO Becky Lalumia’s position is one of only three among department heads — police and fire chiefs being the others — that is classified as Civil Service. The designation was made in 1998 by the Walter Comeaux administration, supposedly to promote consistency and continuity in a critical position.
Chief Administrative Officer B+
Joey Durel’s selection of Stanley as his second in command surprised some who didn’t understand why Durel thought a career newsman would make a good chief administrative officer. Too many had already forgotten Stanley’s short stint as council clerk from 1990 -1994 during the Lastrapes and Bowen administrations, a crash course in how government works — and how it should not work — that ultimately made him a solid selection, on top of the two decades he’d spent reporting on government for KLFY TV10. The self-proclaimed “deer in headlights” for his first two years, Durel has benefitted immensely from Stanley’s political savvy and street smarts, but some believe it is time for their relationship to be redefined. “Dee was the perfect guy for the first term,” says one of our panelists. “Joey needed political advice but doesn’t really any more. Dee should be the administrator, and Joey the ombudsman for the community.” The fear among a number of panelists is that Stanley is too cautious and may be whispering in Durel’s ear to play it safe until his re-election to a final term in 2011, hindering Durel’s early propensity for taking risks that are in the best interest of the community. Stanley, who says his boss is indeed a risk taker, takes exception to the criticism, calling such allegations “ludicrous, ridiculous” in the Sept. 23 Independent Weekly cover story, “A Question of Leadership.” He also insists Durel makes his own decisions.
One close observer of local government makes the case for a realignment of the organizational chart to streamline communication and processes and redistribute the concentration of power. Currently, only Stanley and attorney Pat Ottinger are direct reports to Durel. The 11 remaining directors are supervised by Stanley, including one over whom he has no hire/fire authority, CFO Becky Lalumia, a Civil Service employee. It also makes little sense that LUS Director Terry Huval and CIO Keith Thibodeaux answer to Stanley. Should a chief planning officer position be created, which is much-needed, this person could also be a direct report to Durel, with directors of Planning, Zoning and Codes, Traffic and Community Development answering to the new CPO.
On a more positive note, and likely a result of the communication skills he honed in the news business, Stanley is extremely responsive to the public and has instilled in the department heads the value an open, honest dialogue with the community (not that he has gotten through to all of them). It’s refreshing to have someone pushing transparency and so willing to engage, though Stanley himself acknowledges that he tends “to use too many words when only a few would suffice.” That’s also gotten him in trouble at times, as two panelists did note Stanley’s inclination to over-promise when speaking to residents and community leaders (though both said their specific examples would likely identify them as the source of the information). “He tends to try to spin everything in a positive light rather than admit that you can’t be all things to all people,” says one respondent.
A former parish and state bar president and respected legal counselor with a practice that focused on oil and gas and business law, Ottinger was chosen to replace city-parish attorney Steve Dupuis when a new administration was ushered in. Dupuis, like his predecessor Jeff Moss, was often criticized for what many viewed as exorbitant legal fees. The change was much-needed, and Ottinger has not disappointed. While he lacked experience in government affairs, Ottinger has made it his business to understand how government works and how he can best represent its interests. More important, he has been astute in bringing qualified legal experts to the table when necessary, with the best example being the LUS fiber project. While Ottinger led the legal effort, he leaned on the advice of an attorney experienced in this unique field and successfully validated LCG’s authority to issue bonds in connection with the project. “In previous administrations [outside counsel] was assigned based on politics not competence,” says one of our panelists who is a longtime observer of local government, in particular the legal department. “I see very little of that in this administration. It’s just very different now than it was under Walter [Comeaux].” Additionally, Ottinger is known to entice local attorneys to work for hourly rates significantly lower than what they might get in the private sector, selling them on the notion that the difference is “for the good of the community,” one panelist notes.
Another observer gave Ottinger his lowest score on the question about whether he is “open to outside expertise/advice from subordinates: “He is quite anal and usually thinks his ideas are the best ones,” the panelist writes, adding this caveat: “but he is right more often than not.”
If there is one downside to Ottinger it is that he is sometimes slow to respond to public inquiries on legal matters related to LCG, which may be related to the complex nature of these issues and the time required to gather a comprehensive legal understanding before answering.
Of his own volition (though he says one employee did ask for it), Ottinger also has helped other departments understand legal requirements — through seminars on public bid law, real estate law, expropriation, open meetings, etc. — which has minimized the need for departments and employees to use legal services and drive up these costs.
LCG spent $186,000 more on legal fees in 2008 than in the last year of the Comeaux administration (fiscal year 2003), mainly due to fees associated with litigation, including police and fire legal fees since 1999, and the LUS fiber project. But the fees associated with administrative support, which the city-parish attorney has the most direct control over, have been virtually cut in half for each of the past five years. Consider this: in 2008 the five to seven attorneys in Ottinger’s firm billed LCG $568,000; in 2003 Dupuis alone billed $485,300.
Melanie (Lewis) Edwards
Community Development D
Community leaders across the board say they had high hopes for Edwards, formerly Melanie Lewis, when Durel chose her to head the Department of Community Development. (Edwards replaced Tim Breaux, son of former Sheriff Don Breaux and a political appointee of the Comeaux administration.) A Northside High grad, Edwards came to the position with an impressive résumé, including a master of international affairs from Columbia University in New York. She later worked for the U.S. State Department in various position in D.C. and overseas, eventually leading a group of 80 university student leaders on a three-week tour of South Africa, where they gained an understanding of the economic, political and social challenges facing that nation. So while she lacked community development experience, Edwards on paper appeared to be the kind of leader who could learn the ropes and would hit the ground running.
Our panelists say they were wrong on both counts, claiming her subordinates run the department and noting that it’s hard to develop a community when you don’t make it your business to know it. They deliver the most negative assessment of any director to Edwards. Even more telling was the response we got from one of Lafayette’s foremost smart growth activists, who declined to respond to the questionnaire, citing the fact that the two have had so little interaction. The Independent Weekly is a smart growth proponent, presenting an annual lecture series devoted to this proven practice for producing more vibrant communities with a better quality of life, and we, too, have been disappointed about her absence on this issue. In addition to the lecture, we host small discussion groups with civic and business leaders, and Edwards has never expressed an interest in being part of this dialogue.
“Where is she?” asks one panelist. “Does she engage in dialogue with community leaders, with citizens at town halls?” Even when she is seen, the panelist notes, she comes across as aloof and remote. “She seems very disconnected.” Respondents are unsure how she spends her time, saying she does not get out in the neighborhoods most in need of her attention, and one government insider says she is in the office roughly “50 percent of the time” but did say she can be reached when needed.
The DCD’s role is critical to our success as a community. It provides housing services to low/moderate income residents and special needs households; economic development opportunities; housing and financial counseling; neighborhood revitalization; art, cultural and historic programs; senior programs; and homeless services. One respondent noted that Edwards does have a strong appreciation for the arts; if there is one area that gets her attention, that’s it.
In her own assessment of the top five accomplishments of her department since 2004, Edwards lists the Lafayette Science Museum, the major redesign of the Lafayette Business and Career Solutions Center (formerly Workforce Investment Act program), assistance to hundreds of first-time home buyers through various programs, certification of each housing counselor in the department, and the Acadiana Recovery Center’s service to more than 1,800 clients with a 78 percent completion rate.
Perhaps the most alarming criticism of Edwards’ leadership is several panelists’ suggestion (even among one of her supporters) that the community is leaving hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of grant dollars on the table because the department is not identifying and applying for the monies. “There is so much grant money out there that only municipalities are eligible for. Cities with competent staff who research and apply for them bring millions of dollars into their community, a big economic and quality of life impact. Of course you also have to have a vision so you know what to apply for, which Melanie doesn’t seem to have. Or you could partner with nonprofits who have vision to help leverage their ideas. If citizens understood that Melanie’s inaction is literally costing our community millions, they’d demand her replacement immediately.”
Lafayette Utilities Service A
With an annual salary of nearly $140,000, Huval is the highest paid city-parish employee. In our opinion, Lafayette taxpayers have gotten a bargain. Someone who could probably easily leave for a higher paying job in the private sector, Huval remains the steady hand behind LUS’ continued success and ingenuity. Overseeing a $200 million annual budget, the city’s water, sewage, electricity, and now a state of the art fiber to the home telecommunications system, Huval’s job is the most demanding in all of government. He has handled the pressures with aplomb. Huval gets high marks for being responsive, patient and objective in his dealings with the council and the public. Internally, Huval trusts his staff, challenges them and regularly submits himself to 360-degree evaluations from his managers (something that would probably make good policy for every LCG department). He also has been open to outside input and has been an invaluable ambassador for Lafayette on the national stage through his leadership roles with organizations such as the American Public Power Association (past president) and the Fiber to the Home Council.
LUS’ track record speaks for itself. Lafayette’s electrical rates have consistently ranked among the lowest in the state, while outages are among the fewest and shortest. Much credit must go to LUS’ excellent staff. But Huval, known for his uncompromising demand for excellence, has set the bar high, at times even challenging Civil Service issues that have threatened his department’s ability to recruit and retain high-qualified employees. His ability to manage LUS’ special needs has sometimes led to resentment from other departments, but the utilities system, more than any other part of consolidated government, needs to be run like a business.
Most important, Huval has had the necessary foresight and vision to position LUS to thrive and remain on the cutting edge. Always under immense public pressure to keep costs and rates down, Huval has successfully overseen upgrades to every aspect of the utilities system, not to mention the launch of the fiber network, all of which are proving wise investments for Lafayette’s future.
While the LUS director has taken some criticism for the fiber project’s slow rollout and lack of marketing flair, Huval’s prudence is the right approach for the launch of a new business with so much riding on its success. One of our survey respondents wrote: “He has a huge job and far too many people telling him how to do it. I doubt any other human being alive could be doing it better.”
Chief Information Officer A
Quite possibly City-Parish President Joey Durel’s best hire. There’s no question that Thibodeaux has his heart in this job. Enthusiastic, responsive and a hard worker, Thibodeaux has set an excellent standard as Lafayette’s first city-parish chief information officer. Enlisted by Durel in 2004 to modernize local government, Thibodeaux has undertaken the task with an alacrity few would have thought possible. In a relatively short time, his department has overhauled LCG’s phone system, switching to an internally owned and operated Voice Over Internet Protocol system that netted hundreds of thousands in savings; created a database that has reduced printed reports by more than a million pages a year; helped institute several innovative GIS applications for law enforcement and other agencies; and revamped LCG’s Web site with more online data and a more user-friendly interface.
Perhaps most impressive has been Thibodeaux’s ability to make lemonade with lemons; he operated with virtually no budget his first two years and is still struggling to adequately staff his department. Active both behind the scenes and publicly, Thibodeaux is an adamant promoter of Lafayette’s tech industry and regularly seeks input from other CIOs in the community. He remains well-connected with the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (his former employer), LITE (where he serves on the board of directors), the Acadiana Center of the Arts and the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. While his department must grapple with a lot of bureaucracy, having to work with each department within LCG in addition to coordinating with outside agencies, Thibodeaux has been successful as a dedicated consensus builder. One survey respondent summed it up best, writing, “In a community which traditionally undervalues the benefits of technology execution and prioritizes traffic and pot-holes as being the number one issues our community needs to address, Keith does a pretty good job of moving the ball forward.” Another added: “If and when Lafayette is someday famous across the country as a technology hub, Keith Thibodeaux will deserve a lot of credit for that.”
Public Works A
The first engineer to hold this position since consolidation, Carroll gets high marks across the board. He’s known as a team player who has a quality staff that he values and challenges. Carroll has spearheaded some significant improvements at Public Works, including the implementation of pre-positioned hurricane debris collection contracts to afford immediate cleanup after storms. Public Works also plans to soon implement standardized specifications and plan details, in conformance with the state, to provide consistency in public projects — an issue that has at times plagued the department.
Public Works’ other big issue has been recruitment and retention. However, recent city-parish market pay adjustments have helped Carroll reduce staff vacancies from 20 percent to 6 percent in the past year. Carroll is well respected inside and outside LCG for being a consummate professional and selfless leader. He’s also recognized as a patient and effective communicator, especially when it comes to dealing with the public and the council. One of our survey respondents wrote in: “He takes the time to explain the issues and the reasons behind the decisions the department must take. It’s not always what people with a complaint want to hear, but I think they appreciate his candor.” The same source added later: “I was surprised that we did not see more of Tom when Joey Durel was pushing his 1-cent sales tax.”
Administrative Services C+
Prior to joining LCG as administrative services director, Smith ran the parish library system. She had good qualifications coming in and appears to have studied LCG intently while serving in that role. “She attended every council meeting for years despite the fact that the council had no direct authority over the library board to which she reported,” one panelist notes.
Since joining the LCG, however, sources both within and outside of government say she has become increasingly rigid in her dealings with other department heads, her employees and third parties. “Part of this may be the nature of the beast and part due to the erosion of services managed by the department due to the evolution of technology (for example, VoIP replacing the Bell South contract; printing and document management) and the impact of Civil Service,” one respondent writes. With assistance from Administrative Services, the CIO has taken over operation of the LCG phone system. Smith also must regularly defer to Risk Management attorneys and Civil Service on insurance and Human Resources decisions.
While some cite this department for a lack of dynamic leadership and vision, it is hard to lay all of the blame on Smith, who increasingly finds herself in the delicate position noted by our respondent. Administrative Services has been one of the most fluctuating departments in recent years that must adhere to other agencies.
On a positive note, Smith is hard-working and responds well under pressure, according to one source. In her tenure, the department has successfully overhauled the city-parish employee health care plan and continued successful workforce development and cost containment initiatives.
Still, department morale is reportedly low, and there is no vision for how this system should evolve to meet the changing times.
Traffic and Transportation B+
Tramel is lauded by everyone who works with him as being an outstanding engineer and well qualified for the herculean job of keeping traffic flowing in Lafayette. What that means on the pavement is paint, or as Tramel describes it: “effective management of existing pavement by narrowing lanes and creating new turning lanes by the use of striping.” In other words, Tramel, with limited resources, has been re-purposing what was once adequate roadway to accommodate the automotive explosion in Lafayette. Striping, speed lumps, the Safe Speed program, the Rosa Parks Multimodal Center and the innovative roundabout at Ridge Road and Rue DeBelier are the visible achievements of LCG’s traffic department. But what Tramel does that the public doesn’t see is perhaps his most important job.
Tramel was Lafayette’s city transportation engineer from 1977 to 1985. He returned, after a 15 year hiatus where he served as transportation director for two cities in Texas and worked for private consulting firms in Vero Beach, Fla., and Dallas. During the oil boom of the 1970s and early 80s, Tramel was literally scrambling, planning roads for growth that slumped when the oilfield busted. When he returned and became LCG’s first director of Traffic and Transportation in 1998, the first thing he did was dust off his old maps to see where roads that should have been built were abandoned — a perfect example is the dysfunctionality of West Bayou Parkway, which failed to connect to Ambassador Caffery. Since that moment, he has been focused on planning. “Traffic congestion is a symptom of Lafayette’s current inability to manage growth,” he tells us. “Traffic in Lafayette is not a problem in itself; it is the result of many actions or lack of action related to growth management decisions.”
Since Tramel’s return, Traffic and Transportation has had its own planning department, headed up by Mike Hollier. The city’s blueprint for a comprehensive master plan, Lafayette In A Century, was born under Traffic and Transportation’s aegis in 1998, and has been quietly chugging along for a dozen years with very little funding. The recent fight during the city-parish council’s budget hearings over funding for the master plan is in part due to the confusion over which of the city’s departments is responsible for planning — Traffic and Transportation or Planning, Zoning and Codes.
Some of the confusion may inadvertently be due to what is generally considered Tramel’s greatest flaw, communication. While people have used words like “genius” to describe his understanding of commuters, communicating with people is his shortcoming. Although there is strong consensus that Tramel has a clear vision for his department, one respondent wrote, “He is not always as nuanced or politically astute as the other department directors. And so occasionally, he may come across as aloof or dismissive of concerns.” Tramel’s department also has more interaction with the public than most, because, as another respondent wrote, “People’s number one complaint is always traffic.”
Chief Financial Officer B+
Although Lalumia is not charged with public safety, her department has one of the most critical tasks in consolidated government: keeping the books balanced. To that end the longtime bureaucrat, who announced recently that she will retire next year, has done a stellar job. She cites as her top accomplishment — understandably — a perfect record in annual audits of Lafayette Consolidated Government’s vast and vastly complicated financial statements. Lalumia runs a tight ship. She proved herself to be indispensable to the council during the grueling process of finalizing the budget.
She is overseeing the implementation of a new electronic financial accounting system that promises to improve efficiency and accuracy in financial record keeping; and she has been instrumental in helping the administration settle the police and fire lawsuit and develop bond-rating proposals, as well as aiding LUS in applying best-practices standards to its fiber-to-the-home venture.
One of our sources referred to the chief bean counter as “a control freak” who “dictates rather than coordinates,” a trait possibly borne out in Lalumia’s reputedly prodigious work hours each week: She’s simply unwilling to delegate tasks. But another source was kinder, complimenting her readiness in adopting the latest accounting and budgeting methods and assuring departmental compliance.
A source also identifies Lalumia as a leading opponent in LCG for streamlining the way Lafayette government collects property tax. Currently there are two agencies — LUS and the sheriff’s office — collecting property tax in Lafayette Parish. LUS collects city property tax while the LPSO collects parish property tax. Consolidating this service would save taxpayers up to $75,000 annually in manpower, stationary and postal costs. But some in LCG, Lalumia chief among them according to sources, are wary of handing all property tax collections to the sheriff, who has long been at odds with LCG over his revenue stream. The sheriff’s office is using the most up-to-date tax collection software — software, according to a source, LUS is about to purchase, which amounts to an additional, unnecessary expenditure.
Lalumia’s position is one of only three among department heads — police and fire chiefs being the others — that is classified as Civil Service.
Lalumia is as close to a lifer in Lafayette government as there is. According to biographical information she provided, she began her career with city government as an accountant in 1977. She became city controller in 1988 and was appointed by then-City-Parish President Walter Comeaux as CFO in 1998, surviving and then thriving in a consolidated form of government. That current City-Parish President Joey Durel kept Lalumia as CFO speaks to her competence: Durel and his team took office in 2004, reviewed each department and its operations, and replaced some department heads they didn’t believe were up to the task or didn’t fit Durel’s overall management style. Lalumia clearly does.
Parks & Recreation A-
Boudreaux oversees 36 parks, 10 recreation centers, four swimming pools, three municipal golf courses, a pair of tennis centers and 1,500 acres of parkland stretching from Carencro to Broussard and points in between. These facilities and acreage require a lot of manpower in upkeep, and Boudreaux and his managers have generally proven themselves up to it. Boudreaux cites as his own challenges Lafayette’s aging facilities and limited funding for parks/rec. Our sources speak highly of him, referring to him variously as “cooperative” and “cordial” and praising his willingness to keep abreast of trends relevant to his field.
One respondent did question how Boudreaux can be a full-time director and be the supervisor of SEC basketball officials at the same time, but Boudreaux appears to have found a way to balance the two.
The only negative comment about Boudreaux’s department, and it was minor, is that some longtime employees may be a bit “too comfortable” in their positions and could use a little nudging from the boss to spark more productivity — and creativity — given the department’s limited resources.
Chief Robert Benoit
Fire Department B+
Benoit is a longtime department head who was appointed in 1993 — three years before consolidation — and was kept in place by both Democratic and Republican administrations post-consolidation. This, we believe, is a credit to his competence.
A career fire-service employee, Benoit runs a department that employs roughly 250 people in 13 fire stations; it’s a $15 million operation spread around Lafayette requiring a lot of coordination and no small amount of management finesse. The LFD is equipped with the latest in technology — Benoit rightfully hangs his hat on implementation of a first responder program utilizing automated external defibrillators (Lafayette firefighters can put out a blaze and restart a heart) — and the department routinely participates in large-scale training exercises with other local, state and federal agencies.
One of our sources tells us that Benoit regularly researches developments in other fire departments and is abreast of technological trends, and his department has an excellent safety record. We rely on sources primarily because Benoit is the only department head who elected not to fill out the survey distributed for this story. It would have been worth his while to tout his accomplishments and discuss the unique challenges of his department. Benoit’s response to our request that he fill out a survey: “To have someone, or a group of people, evaluate me other than my supervisor, does a disservice to the men and women I represent.”
Chief Jim Craft
Police Department I (Incomplete)
There was nowhere to go but up for Police Chief Jim Craft, who was passed over for the post when City-Parish President Joey Durel appointed his boyhood friend, Randy Hundley, to the job in 2004 (even waiving the requirement that Lafayette’s police chief have a bachelor’s degree). Hundley was eventually accused of setting an illegal bugging device in his secretary’s office, and shortly after the accusations surfaced, the havoc Hundley had been wreaking on the department also came to light. Hundley pleaded guilty to one count of attempted malfeasance and was placed on probation.
Craft was named to the post in early 2007 (the most qualified to apply, he had three decades in the department), about 10 months after he was named interim chief. By many measures, he has re-established public trust and confidence in the police force.
Among his accomplishments, Craft points to vacant positions that have been filled and the addition of police officers; a resource officer assigned to each middle and high school in the parish; reduction in crime levels, particularly violent crime; and an increase in pay, which brought the department to the second highest starting salary of municipalities in the state. The department has also begun the process toward accreditation, which Craft hopes will be realized in two years.
Based on his self-evaluation, Craft seems to have an overall vision for the department and is able to communicate its goals, but one of our respondents says he falls short in implementing and executing that vision.
The chief is “conscientious and hard-working,” says one panelist, but he is too dependent on certain factions within the department and the administration for his political survival. “Direction and energy from subordinates, particularly new or recent hires, is missing,” the panelist continues. “He often works too well with the administration to the detriment of the overall good of the police department.”
The source believes a better effort could be made to be honest about the problems within the organization in order to secure loyalty of the rank and file members of the department.
Craft was also critiqued for having a slow and measured response to public concerns, with some believing his comments are filtered by the administration.
By most accounts, Craft appears to be doing an adequate job, but we could not get a firm grip on this evaluation.
Our sources are close enough to the department for us to believe Craft may not be the kind of leader many had hoped for, which is why it was critical for us to solicit information from within the department. We sent our confidential questionnaires out, but none was returned despite numerous follow-up requests. For this reason, we withhold giving Craft a grade at this time.
Director of Planning, Zoning and Codes C+
Since 2004, Eleanor Bouy has been the director of Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Planning, Zoning and Codes department. That doesn’t count the 20 years she spent, from the time she began as an entry level planner, with a degree in urban and regional planning, working her way up through the ranks of the department. Her years with the city give her deep institutional knowledge of the political, geographic and developmental history of Lafayette. Both as department director, and earlier in her career, she authored or co-authored some of the most important elements of the zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations, such as the preservation ordinance, the sign ordinance, the landscape ordinance and the tree ordinance (which was never adopted). Reorganizing the codes division and implementing Trak-It, a state-of-the-art building permit software, have greatly expedited getting permitting information to the public and building industry by putting most of the info online. Working along with River Ranch’s architects and developers, she created the Traditional Neighborhood Development code, for which the department won the 2008 Louisiana Chapter of the American Planning Association State Award.
The strength of this department, which Bouy herself points out, is a capable staff of many long term, experienced employees (one consistently mentioned by name is Rebekke Raines). She often defers to their judgment. Architects, developers and builders are busy and demanding, working on tight deadlines. Streamlining zoning and codes engendered superior customer service to the developers.
The third arm of the department, planning, received mixed marks. Planning is a tricky roller coaster to ride; it’s all about anticipating for the future and the continuous need for change. “Eleanor seems hesitant to see her role as an advocate for change in an area of city-parish government in need of change: namely long term planning,” one respondent wrote. She “appears to be an excellent team player, but not necessarily the quarterback,” wrote another.
LCG’s master plan initiative, LINC, was conceived under the planning wing of the Department of Traffic and Transportation. Bouy was not involved at its inception, so while Tramel’s department was pushing through LINC and other long-term planning movements, PZC was late to the race. There is some battling between the two departments about who should really be responsible for planning, causing ongoing friction between Bouy, Tramel and planner Mike Hollier, who has been the shepherd of the LINC plan since 1998. The administration has toyed with the idea of a reorganization, but that has yet to happen.
Where Bouy gets her lowest marks is in her responsiveness to the public. “She is oriented toward the developer and not the public,” says one respondent, “and is loathe to open up the process for fear of stimulating public awareness, discussion or participation.” The respondent continues, “she shows good leadership within the department but not so much on behalf of the community.”
Another panelist with inside knowledge of the department agrees with the assessment, adding that Bouy also is beholden to Durel and Stanley. “She won’t tell Joey no.”
Department Head Salaries
Dee Stanley $112,008
Becky Lalumia $125,174
Gail Smith $90,500
Keith Thibodeaux $102,502
Chief Jim Craft $105,500
Chief Robert Benoit $105,500
Tom Carroll $106,308
Tony Tramel $100,713
Gerald Boudreaux $94,993
Terry Huval $137,529
Melanie (Lewis) Edwards $90,500
Eleanor Bouy $94,993
All also receive a $500/month vehicle subsidy allowance, with the exception of Chief Robert Benoit and Chief Jim Craft, who each drive a departmental unit.