As Ben Berthelot moves on to LCVC, Lafayette wonders: What’s next for LCG’s Community Development Department? By Walter Pierce
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.”
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.