Jeremy S. Peltier's Letter to the Editor on the Parish Government Session
I am very proud to say that I am honored to have been chosen to be a recipient of the Leadership Tangipahoa 2015-16. This class has a variety of leaders that want to learn more about the parish of Tangipahoa and what it has to offer to our citizens and visitors. We are the 4th fastest growing parish in the state. As we took our second trip around the parish, we visited the Hammond and Ponchatoula City Government, Hammond Northshore Regional Airport, Department of Homeland Security Customs, Wetland Assimilation for Hammond, and Ragan & Massey. The students of Leadership Tangipahoa learned so many interesting things that I would like to share with you.
Our day started at the Hammond Council chambers where we heard from the mayor and various department heads that make up Team Hammond which is the largest municipality in the parish. The mayor said that him and the 16 department heads is what makes us a team. The city also operates on a 38 million dollar budget. There are over 300 employees that work for the City of Hammond. Various departments talked about their roles as a city employee. Lacey Landrum who works with the mayor to run the city day to day says that employees care about the community and it is a privilege to serve. Also Hammond was the first in state to be recognized as a Safe Community USA.
Our next stop was the Hammond Northshore Regional Airport. Our visit was led by David Lobue, who is the director of the airport. The airport was in operation during World War II. He talked on a recent event that occurred at the airport and said it was the first fatalities inside the fenced area at the airport. He said about 12 years ago the Hammond Northshore Regional Airport was a sleepy airport, but no longer as a result of the relocation of Army National Guard, flight operations from Lakefront Airport to Hammond. A new control tower was constructed at the airport. This tower, manned by military air traffic controllers from the Air Operations Department of the Louisiana Army National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility #1 at the airport, became operational on 15 December 2014. There are over 8,000 operations a month that take place. We actually got a view from the control tower to see what takes place there. There are plans to hopefully expand some more in the future. Also while at the airport we got to tour the Department of Homeland Security Customs. Leadership is very distinct and they want you to find your spot and excel. Three words they believe in Ethics, Integrity, and Morality that make up a great atmosphere for a place of work.
We were then taken to Ponchatoula City Hall, where we were served lunch, which was sponsored by City of Ponchatoula. Our incredible lunch was made by Sue Davis, and the entire lunch was amazing! After we enjoyed lunch with Mayor Zabbia, we had the pleasure of hearing him speak about Ponchatoula. The city operates on a 10 million dollar budget and also just received a healthy audit with only some unqualified opinions. The mayor reported on what is happening in the city. Some of the things happening are: 40 million dollar expansion at Elmer's, 4.4 million dollar expansion at J&M Industries, 3 million dollar expansion at Ragan & Massey, and 4 million dollar First Guaranty Bank. Taco Bell, RaceTrac, and Rousse's will be opening in the very near future. The mayor was also happy to report that the city is debt free. Also Rhonda Sheridan who is a former graduate of Leadership Tangipahoa reported on the construction of the Wellness Park at Kiwanis Park. There is no city money in this project but through partners the $50,000 dollars has been accumulated thus far. The mayor also reported that city is in process of hiring some additional personnel for the Fire Dept. and has just purchased a new pumper apparatus. There is going to be a downtown parking area at the corner of Hickory and N 6th St. through some capital outlay grant money. So overall things are looking great for the City of Ponchatoula.
After lunch, we headed to the Wetland Assimilation for Hammond to take a tour of their operation near the swamp. We had the honor of listening to Vernon and Wanda with the City of Hammond talk about this project. He said that wastewater is lifted over 7 miles from Hammond near this site at the Four Mile Marsh. There is over a mile of tubing with 975 spickets that allow the water into the swamp. It allows an abundance of needed nutrients into the wetland to stimulate plant growth. There were over 50,000 trees planted in 2006. Also where it takes 2-3 years for a tree to grow, it is within 1 year now. Over two and a half million gallons of water go through this project daily.
Our last stop of the day was at the Ragan and Massey in Ponchatoula. The company started in Ponchatoula in 1991. They now sell their own brand name pesticides and seeds, one of which is Compare-N-Save. They are the #1 seller on Amazon.com for the product they offer. The company has 34 employees and have a 48,000 square foot warehouse and are in the process of a 3 million dollar expansion. They also send out over 5 million pounds of rye grass seed every year. Ragan and Massey distributes to all 50 states and even to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
I would like to thank Gordon Burgess for the transportation and also the City of Ponchatoula for the lunch provided. I would also like to thank all the city officials that took time out of their day to inform us of the important roles that take place on a day to day basis in city government. Also, to the owners of Ragan & Massey, Tom Ragan & Mike Massey, for the tour of their warehouse.
The Leadership Tangipahoa class and I would like to extend a big thank you to Nick Gagliano and Rhonda Sheridan for getting tours and guest speakers so that we can learn what there is to offer in the great parish of Tangipahoa and taking time out of your schedule to take care of this class this year. I look forward to an exciting year and so do the other students of this great class. LEADERSHIP TANGIPAHOA 2015-16!!!!!!!
Jeremy S. Peltier