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 Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
San Fran wins the World Series; Sistine Chapel improvements; Kurds moving toward Syria and more national and international news for Thursday, October 30, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram doesn't see his dramatic spike in production as any sort of validation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing off one last time with her two main Republican challengers before next week's election.
He’s pulling for Knezek and Hidalgo on his end of the parish but issued endorsements in three other districts as well.
Off a narrow gravel road running between a handful of mostly abandoned lots near a Mississippi River levee, down past sprawling oak trees and thick weeds, a lectern framed by banana trees has been set up in front of three short rows of folding chairs.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to New Orleans this weekend to stir up voter support for Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Saints coach Sean Payton has spent much of his team's erratic season trying to build his players up.
The Daily Advertiser has weighed in on this year's LPSB elections with nine endorsements.