Tracy Washington Wells Letter to the Editor on Parish Government Session
Considering the mission of Leadership Tangipahoa "is to improve the quality of life in Tangipahoa Parish by training a diverse group of current and emerging leaders about the interrelationships of community systems", what a great way to start the 2016-2017 session. Once a month, our class will meet for an informative session and meet the current leaders and key personnel throughout the parish.
Our session for the month of September started at the Tangipahoa Parish Council Chambers in Amite where we were greeted and presentations given by Parish President, Robby Miller; Chairman of the Parish Council, Bobby Cortez; Director of Administration, Joe Thomas; Director of Finance, Jeff McKneely; Director of Homeland Security, Dawson Primes; Prevention Director - TRACC Coalition, Bridgette Bailey; and Director of Section 8 Housing, Tonya Mabry.
Newly elected President Miller started by giving an overview of his responsibilities since taking office January 11, which includes two "state of emergency" declarations: one for the March flooding and the second being the August flooding. What a way to start off the New Year! It took strong leadership skills to come in and "hit the ground running". When asked what the key to his success is, President Miller responded "the Good Lord" and his ability to delegate to his awesome staff and placing key personnel within his administration. One thing I extracted from his presentation is the foundation of a great leader is to empower your staff. He asks three questions of his employees: 1) do you know your job, 2) do you have the tools to do your job, 3) do you have the authority to carry out your job. We all can learn from his leadership skill.
Hon. Bobby Cortez explained the history of how the former police juries transformed into what is now the current ten districts council system. He provided insight into the activities of the parish council. Cortez stated the council meets every 2nd and 4th Monday of the month.
Joe Thomas described the vision of the administration to work efficiently with the tools needed to carry out the goals set by President Miller. He stated there are approximately 260 employees and 8 department heads. A prominent leadership statement made by Thomas was "train someone to take over your role". That is what memorable leaders do - train the next generation.
Jeff McKneely provided a history of the parish and recommended we watch the documentary, "The First Detroit". As the Director of Finance, the numbers representing our parish rolled from his lips like the people rolling into the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.
Bridget Bailey defined TRACC as Tangipahoa - Reshaping Attitudes for Community Change. TRACC works to create healthy attitudes and community wellness in Tangipahoa Parish. Bailey presented statistics and the continuous improvement the program seeks for the youth in the parish.
Tonya Mabry, a Leadership Tangipahoa alumnus, oversees the housing programs for Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes. There are currently 200 people on the waiting list for housing assistance, which means there is a dire need for affordable housing within the parish. During the recent flooding, she was responsible for the oversight of the emergency shelters.
In addition to the presentation by President Miller and representatives of his administration, we visited the Registrar of Voters Office, where Willie Johnson presented factoids about our parish. Did you know there are 77,000 registered voters in Tangipahoa Parish; 15% of the population is not registered to vote; if you are 65 years or older, you can vote by mail (if you need more information about this for your parents, grandparents or other seniors, contact the Registar's Office).
We also visited the Assessor's' Office. Jr. Deputy Assessor, Brady Sledge, provided a brief overview of their office responsibilities. Due to the recent storms, property owners who were affected and sustained damage could possibly have property values reduced for one year, which may give some relief on upcoming property tax bills.
Next, the Chief Deputy Clerk of Court, Gary Stanga, gave us a very informative tour and presentation of the office. We learned that zero tax dollars are utilized to maintain and manage the office. All funds are self-generated through the fees for filing or requests of documents. Every fee is referenced by the applicable state codes/statutes, which allows for full traceability of the associated costs.
We departed the parish courthouse and headed to the Florida Parishes Arena and Event Center. Kelly Wells provided a brief overview of the arena and its history. The arena was a collaborative effort between the State of Louisiana, Tangipahoa Parish, and the City of Amite. There are barns, horse stalls, and RV hookups and service. The Event Center is a beautiful 5,000 sq.ft. main hall with banquet seating or theater seating. While enjoying our wonderfully prepared lunch in the event center, Dawson Primes presented his Office of Homeland Security and our guest speaker was James Wascom, the Director of Louisiana Homeland Security.
After lunch, we departed for the 350 acres Tangipahoa Parish Landfill on Hano Road in Independence. All garbage from the entire parish is deposited in this landfill. No hazardous waste or industrial waste is allowed on this site.
As our day extended on, we traveled to Mosquito Abatement & Control Office, directed by Dennis L. Wallette Jr.; the Tangipahoa Parish Animal Control; and the Parish Permitting Department, which Andy Currier presented; the Planning Department, under the leadership of Alyson Lapuma, Director of Development and Planning; and the Environmental Services Office.
A "behind the scenes" snapshot of our parish government was very informative and exciting. I would like to personally thank President Robby Miller, his department heads, and staff for time and energy extended to us all during the past few months as each one of us in our respective communities pulled together as One Community. Thanks to all who put forth the effort to host our leadership group: Tangipahoa Tourism and Visitors Center, President Miller for sponsoring lunch, and the transportation services and drivers. Your kindness has not gone unnoticed.
Warmest thanks to Nick Gagliano for facilitating our entire day.
For information regarding any office referenced, please visit www.tangipahoa.org or contact Tangipahoa Parish Government at 985-748-3211.
With sincere thanks,
Tracy Washington Wells
Leadership Tangipahoa, Class of
Tracy Washington Wells
Leadership Tangipahoa, Class of