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.
Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year.
The LPSB races are sure to get heated between now and Nov. 4, and with only 9 available seats, this year's field of 20 candidates will surely be wanting to set themselves apart from the crowd early; they'll get their chance next week, starting Tuesday with the kick-off of a three-day series of candidate forums.
Lawmakers say they've received complaints that waits have spiked, with people being forced to wait in line for more than an hour — and sometimes three hours — to handle routine tasks.
The campaign announced that Rep. Stuart Bishop of District 43 and Nancy Landry, District 31, have thrown their support behind the Naval Academy graduate and entrepreneur in his bid to unseat current Hunter Beasley in District 8.
A Lafayette man with an alleged taste for child porn was busted Thursday evening during a cyber crime sting launched by the Attorney General’s Office.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister says his chief of staff is on temporary leave after being booked with drunken driving.
It was a rare moment in Congress this week as Republicans briefly put aside partisanship in support of President Barack Obama's request to train and arm Syrian rebels, and while a number of Democrats opposed the measure, Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu found herself on the same side of the issue as her Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Home Depot breach bigger than Target; Alibaba IPO could be big; Rivers' last project and more national and international news for Friday, September 19, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
City-Parish President Joey Durel is asking the council to sign off on a resolution approving a pair of deals that would lead to razing the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to build a new police substation as well as transforming nearly a block Downtown where the old federal courthouse building now molders into a mixed-use development.
In 2013, the IRS — already the least popular governmental agency in the country — became the target of intense investigations after it was revealed that they had specifically and improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status from organizations associated with the nascent Tea Party movement.
Improving the running game was "a point of emphasis" during the offseason and the results have manifested themselves in the form of substantially greater production.
Louisiana's health department said Wednesday that its evaluation of the state's Medicaid privatization was on target, despite criticism from the legislative auditor that it lacked key data and contained inconsistencies.
The feds converge on your office, seizing records on several employees as part of a pay-for-plea investigation. WWYD? If you’re Mike Harson, you give yourself a $12k raise.
It’s football season and after back-to-back winless weekends for the Saints and the Cajuns many citizens are finding it difficult to be civil much less happy. Well, chew on this.
Considering his repeated stays in the local penal system, David Narcisse Jr. should have known that having a semiautomatic shotgun, even one given to him by a friend, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.
A state district judge on Tuesday threw out a last-minute retirement hike lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent, ending a political firestorm over a pension boost passed without public scrutiny on the last day of the legislative session.
The House has passed a bill to increase oversight of veterans' hospitals under construction, following a report that some medical centers take three years longer to complete than estimated and cost an extra $366 million per project.
An obvious follow-up question for any Republican politician who accuses Democrats of being science deniers is one about science, to which Jindal bobbed and weaved like a welterweight champ.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is expected to decide tonight (Tuesday) whether to go along with a proposal City-Parish President Joey Durel made in February’s State of the Parish Address and consolidate taxes for mosquito control and the parish health units into a broader tax program that would also cover animal control.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik has dismissed Greg Davis’ lawsuit against the LPSB, yet in his ruling, the federal judge doesn’t bite his tongue in pointing out the "threat" being posed by certain board members.
Of all the political offices being contested throughout Lafayette Parish, the race for Broussard’s top police post has literally become one of the most heated.
A state district judge is deciding whether to issue an injunction against the enforcement of a last-minute retirement hike that lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent.
A new website is up for Louisiana's state government employees and retirees to choose their health insurance plans for next year, a choice they must make by October.
That fact that New Orleans led both games in the final 10 seconds of regulation, and lost each by a field goal or less, is of little solace.