As Ben Berthelot moves on to LCVC, Lafayette wonders: What’s next for LCG’s Community Development Department?
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
A typical day at the office last week for Ben Berthelot, soon-to-be former director of LCG’s Community Development Department, included back-to-back meetings to discuss on the one hand his department’s Court Services program with a City-Court judge, and on the other to talk about TicketMaster contracts — “opposite ends of the spectrum,” as Berthelot puts it. It’s all in a day’s labor for a sprawling department that oversees everything from federal housing programs for the poor to court-ordered drug rehabilitation to recreational/cultural components like the Acadiana Park Nature Station and the Lafayette Science Museum.
If there’s a department within Lafayette Consolidated Government that may be accurately characterized as schizophrenic, Community Development is it, at least in terms of the diversity of programs the department administers. But virtually everything CD does falls under a single rubric: helping Lafayette’s economically and socially disadvantaged populations get ahead.
“There’s not a person in America with a résumé that would fit everything we do here,” the lanky, fashion-forward Berthelot points out. “If there is I’d love to meet that person.”
Berthelot was chosen May 4 by a unanimous vote of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission board to take over the LCVC executive director position from Gerald Breaux, who is retiring after more than three decades. Berthelot begins his new job June 11; Breaux will stay on a few weeks to help the new director get his sea legs.
The announcement of Berthelot’s selection reignited some quiet but emphatic conversations within Lafayette’s civically engaged circles about reorganizing Community Development, a sentiment Berthelot’s boss, City-Parish President Joey Durel, has heard and is willing to entertain.
“That’s definitely something that I have been thinking of for three years and is one of the opportunities here, so that’s why I’m not in a big rush [to replace Berthelot],” Durel says. “Some of what community development does looks similar to what Planning, Zoning & Codes does, but [CD’s] money is federal dollars — it’s a little different. I don’t know that combining them would necessarily make it more efficient, but it would make some sense. That’s why I’m not necessarily in a huge rush.”
LCG is awaiting Philadelphia planning firm Wallace, Roberts & Todd to synthesize the first round of community meetings for the Lafayette Comprehensive Plan and to report back, and Durel anticipates WRT offering some suggestions on streamlining operations and eliminating duplication among CD, PZC and Traffic & Transportation, all of which play a role in planning for and accommodating Lafayette’s future growth.
Durel isn’t revealing what his future plans for Community Development are, but he says they won’t interfere with suggestions that may be offered by WRT. And he says he might wait a few weeks or even months to name Berthelot’s replacement, although he admits he plans to appoint someone from Lafayette, possibly someone currently employed by LCG.
“I have people calling [about the position],” Durel says. “I have people internally who would do a fine job with it, so I’m not going to put a whole lot of effort into that.”
Whomever Durel names, the new director will work under a shadow: Department heads serve at the pleasure of the city-parish president, and Durel is serving the final three years of his time in office; a new C-P prez could replace all LCG directors, not that political patronage is prevalent in Louisiana politics or anything. “I think if you appoint good people and they’re doing good work that unless somebody pretty outrageous would get elected, their own work would be their job security,” counters Durel, who kept most of his predecessor’s department heads in place after he took the oath in 2004.
During his two-year tenure as director of Community Development, Berthelot revamped leadership in the department, replacing six managers who had more than 150 years combined experience. He believes whoever gets the job will be in good hands moving forward. “We’re fortunate to have a great leadership team, and I’m just really excited about the people we have in place. One of the sad things about me leaving is I would love to be around to watch them flourish, and I look forward to watching them from the outside.”
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seenh on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Dogs get back-to-school blues; mother pleads for release of journalist; ice bucket challenge and more national and international news for Thursday, August 28, 2014.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her lead GOP challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy are running close when it comes to money. Landrieu has $5.5 million to Cassidy’s $5.6 million in the bank.
With expectations mounting that Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon announce his campaign for president, attention is turning to not only who he will bring along with him but also what will transpire politically back home during the transition.
Seven of the 11 U.S. cities in a new ranking of “most dangerous diets” are in the Bayou and Lone Star states, but the ranking is more about poverty than fried oysters.
Lafayette police are investigating a fatal shooting involving an alleged burglar and homeowner.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham got the message from the NFL. He's not dunking footballs over goal posts any more.
With qualifying over, the start of campaign season is official, and for the Lafayette Parish School Board, the race toward Nov. 4 will pit 20 candidates in battles for all 9 of the district’s available seats.