Leadership Tangipahoa 2007-2008 is well underway and thus far it has been as interesting and informative as I had anticipated. One of the goals I hoped to achieve in Leadership Tangipahoa was to gain an understanding of different government agencies that make up our Parish. My fellow classmates and I had an opportunity to accomplish this goal in our most recent session as we visited as we visited the Tangipahoa Parish Government offices as well as the City of Hammond.
We began the day with a visit to the Tangipahoa Parish Offices. Parish President Gordon Burgess welcomed us and expressed his appreciation for the Leadership Tangipahoa Program. Mr. Burgess strongly encourages members of his staff to participate in the program each year. He then introduced Jeff McKneely who spoke to us about how the Parish came to be governed under the “Home Rule Charter.” Mr. McKneely informed us that the parish was previously governed under the Police Juror system until the “Home Rule Charter” was put into place in 1986. He continued to explain that under the Police Juror system each district was governed independently and prior to the adoption of the “Home Rule Charter” the parish was on the verge of Bankruptcy. The Parish has since become much more efficient and managed to operate debt free as a result of their “pay as you go” policy.
The remainder of the morning was spent learning about some of the services that our parish government provides. Andy Currier shared with us about the building permitting and inspection process and Maurice Jordan spoke to us briefly about the parish’s road overlay project and the parish’s process of approving and permitting subdivision developments. Mayor Harold Smith of Kentwood was then introduced and he talked about the different divisions that a municipality can be broken into based on its population and he also touched on the increasing duties and responsibilities of “small town” mayors and how it is no longer a part time job. Upon completion of Mayor Smith’s presentation we then listened to Dawson Primes, who is also a member of the 2007-2008 class of Leadership Tangipahoa, talk about his duties as Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. We then boarded a bus and traveled to the parish landfill where we were greeted by Buddy Till and then we traveled to the Florida Parishes Arena where we were greeted by Kelly Wells. Both gentlemen shared with us information about their respective facilities. After the completion of our morning session I realized that one of the things that each of the speakers had in common was their love for Tangipahoa Parish and their desire to see it continue to grow and improve.
Upon completion of the morning session we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Murphy’s restaurant in Hammond. During our lunch we were pleasantly surprised to be joined by Parish Councilman Bobby Cortez. Mr. Cortez spoke more about the parish’s road overlay project. After lunch we then gathered at Hammond City Hall where we were greeted by numerous city employees and councilmen. Mayor Foster who was not able to attend so graciously allowed each city “Team Leader” to give a brief overview of their department , and educate us on some of the projects that they were currently in process. Those who presented were Kathy Montecino and Mike Williams(City Council), Don Holtgren(Administration), Roddy Devall(Police Department), Buddy Ridgel(Streets Department), Samuel Richardson(Systems and Networks), Monroe Jones(Recreation), Nash Bono(Building Department), Garry Knight(Water and Sewer), Leon White(Parks and Grounds), Larry Francis(Finance Department), Paul Collura(Fire Department), Jason Ball(Airport), Loretta Severan(Human Resources), Bryan Theard(Garage), Ernest Peters(Purchasing), Terry Lynn Smith(DDD), Barbara Smith(Historic District) and Guy Ricotta(City Court).
At the end of the day we reflected back on the session and shared with each other the points that we as individuals took away from the session. I personally was very impressed with both Tangipahoa Parish government and Hammond city government in that it was very interesting to see how both entities operated in conjunction with each other to provide a better environment for the citizens of Tangipahoa Parish. It was also obvious by listening to our many speakers that they enjoy what they do and Tangipahoa Parish and the city of Hammond are in very capable hands. I thank Leadership Tangipahoa and my sponsor First Guaranty Bank for giving me this opportunity to not only gain a wealth of knowledge about our parish but to also have the opportunity to develop new relationships with my fellow 2007-2008 Leadership Tangipahoa class members that will last for years to come.