On a recent morning at his downtown Baton Rouge office, the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources resembles an excitable geography professor. First he points hard and fast to Caddo Parish, breathlessly offering an overview of the state's dry hole tax credit. Next he jabs Cameron Parish and releases a spitfire evaluation of coastal land loss. He doesn't pause or miss a beat, relentlessly hammering on policy issues.
"I'm somewhat of a workaholic," says Angelle.
Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall last year, he has played a major behind-the-scenes role in the debate over levee board consolidation and legacy sites, as well as Gov. Kathleen Blanco's battles to increase offshore royalties and create new government-sponsored oversight groups. "I've always felt that if my plate gets too full, I'll just get another plate," he notes.
Angelle served as president of St. Martin Parish before fellow Acadiana native Blanco tapped him for the DNR post two years ago. The two are close allies and rumors ran rampant during the recent regular session that Angelle was on the short list for lieutenant governor if Mitch Landrieu won his bid for mayor of New Orleans.
He has swatted down the chatter in the past ' not too vigorously ' and contends he pays little attention to rumblings about him running for a different statewide office. But there's no doubt that Angelle's stock is rising. It's a dramatic turnaround of fortune for a man who was once criticized by sectors of the oil and gas industry for not having enough experience and insight for the post.
"They didn't want me in this job," Angelle says.
That stigma didn't linger long. Angelle quickly proved himself as a hands-on bureaucrat and energetic spokesman with an innate ability to unite feuding parties. "He has the personal demeanor and capability to handle major issues," says Wilfred Pierre, a Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. "He can be forceful and jovial and whatever it takes."
Angelle claims he's proactive to a fault at times and grows restless with government studies, which are a necessary evil for coastal resources and big oil matters.
"I don't like being on the defensive," he says. "I'm an offensive player."
That philosophy guided him in the wake of Katrina and Rita, after Angelle flew around the state taking inventory of his devastated constituencies. He was instrumental in forming the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which forced hurricane protection, coastal restoration and flood control under one umbrella. The CPRA also served as a launching pad for efforts to consolidate levee boards in south Louisiana.
The merging of levee districts became a war cry following the 2005 hurricane season. Voters demanded change and it was considered a top policy issue in independent polls, but lawmakers disagreed openly about their regions being included in the plan. "Some days left you just standing there scratching your head," Angelle says. "But I never thought the legislation was doomed. I never thought we weren't going to pass a bill. I just think there were people out there who were resistant to change." A blueprint for levee district consolidation in southeast Louisiana ultimately passed in February, paving the way for further levee board consolidation.
With that victory in hand, Angelle spent the spring urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would force the clean up of huge fields polluted by oil companies. The multi-layered issue monopolized his time; landowners wanted to get paid for the mess, trial attorneys wanted to make sure people could still sue, environmentalists wanted a stricter law, and oil interests didn't want to face massive waves of new litigation.
Angelle operated a policy war room, leaving the arm-twisting to the Governor's Office while his team hammered out the actual legislation, which changed several times during session. Even though he's no political novice, the legacy site debate served as a refresher course on what it's like to work with the Legislature.
"If you're not sure about how something is going to be received by the Legislature, you will definitely find out during the process," he says.
Angelle also has Blanco's back in her fight to increase offshore royalties. Although the state contributes more than $5 billion to the federal treasury each year from offshore drilling, it only gets back about $39 million. In order to boost the kickback, Blanco is threatening to refuse to sign off on the royalty tally for August. Angelle's office traditionally administers that paperwork, and Angelle is supporting Blanco's potential boycott.
"He has been the common denominator on all of these issues," says Reggie Dupre, a Democrat on the Senate Natural Resources Committee. "You can expect to see a lot of him."
Observers like Dupre, Pierre and others call Angelle the most high-profile secretary in DNR's history. Angelle doesn't reject that characterization but refuses to openly discuss what he plans to do with that political momentum. He only answers vaguely, with a coy smile.
"Let's just say I have chosen to dedicate my life to public service," Angelle says.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)