Sharmiane Robertson & Ralph Wood's Letter to the Editor on the City Government Session
On Tuesday October 17, 2017, the 2018 Leadership Tangipahoa class had the wonderful opportunity to learn about the city governments of Hammond and Ponchatoula.
Our fast paced day began at The Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce located in the historic Hammond Train Depot. The President and CEO, Melissa Bordelon warmly greeted us and explained the role of the Chamber of Commerce in sustaining and encouraging economic growth in Hammond as well as Tangipahoa parish. The Chamber advocates and provides support to its 600 member businesses and 40 Non-Profits, and hosts numerous events throughout the year including ribbon cutting ceremonies, the Chamber After Hours, and the annual Chillin' with the Chamber. The Chamber is a leader of the "Our Parish, Our Pride" initiative that celebrates the role Southeastern Louisiana University plays in the economic growth of Hammond and Tangipahoa parish. For more information about the Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce visit their website at http://www.hammondchamber.org.
Our next stop took us to the Hammond City Council Chambers. Mayor Pete Panepinto and Director of Administration Lacy Landrum provided us an overview of the many initiatives taking place in the City of Hammond. City Councilman Lemar Marshall explained the role of city council in the approval of the budget. Councilman Marshall explained the City of Hammond is divided into 5 districts with each district representing approximately 2000 residents. Council members serve four-year terms with a three term limit.
Next, Director of Administration Lacy Landrum introduced us to several of the department heads that comprise the city government. Hammond Fire Department Chief John Thomas described the locations and equipment of each of the five stations. The Hammond Fire Department responds to approximately 4,800 calls a year. Parks and Grounds Superintendent Whitney Statham and her staff work tirelessly to make Hammond one of the cleanest and most beautiful cities in Louisiana. Superintendent Robert Morgan and his team in Streets Department maintain the streets and traffic lights in Hammond, as well as addressing drainage issues. Grants Manager Charles Borchers explained the essential role of the Grants Department in securing state and federal funding for the many projects that make Hammond a great place to live. For more information about Hammond's city government visit their website at http://www.hammond.org
Lastly, we heard from Hammond Police Chief James Stewart. Chief Stewart is a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, and oversees 9.2 million dollar budget and supervises the 109 employees of the Hammond Police Department. Chief Stewart was pleased to report that the crime rate for the city of Hammond is on the decline. Hammond Police Department works closely with parish, state, and federal law enforcement to keep our communities safe. We appreciate the service of the law enforcement community.
"Things really took off" at our next stop, the Hammond Northshore Regional Airport. The Airport Director, David Lobue, who gave us a tour of the terminal, and explained that the Hammond airport has experienced steady growth since 2005, resulting in the construction of an air traffic control tower in 2014. Once we completed our tour of terminal, we visited Chief Warrant Officer Mark Head who led us on the tour of the tower. The Hammond Northshore Regional Airport is also the home of the Louisiana National Guard 1-244th Helicopter Assault Battalion.
Also located on the campus of Northshore Regional Airport is U.S. Customs and Border Protection - Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas in addition to the Gulf of Mexico). Our tour of the facility concluded in the hangar, where we had the opportunity to see aircraft used in daily operations.
With a hint of Fall in the air, we had lunch under the oaks at the Hammond Downtown Developmental District (DDD). Executive Director Chelsea Tallo explained that the mission of the Downtown Developmental District is the development downtown businesses and making "downtown Hammond" a must visit destination for both locals and out of town visitors. The DDD sponsors the always-popular Hot August Nights, Starry November Nights, and the new Trick-or-Treat Down Main Street. In addition, the DDD has been a driving force behind the ever-expanding Hammond Farmer's Market. Market Director, Olivia Graziano, gave us a great overview of the vendors and future plans for the market. For more information about the Hammond Downtown Developmental District visit their website at http://dddhammond.com.
Our first stop after lunch was the Hammond Wetland Wastewater Assimilation Project. The idea of a wetland assimilation project is to introduce treated sanitary wastewater or other approved types of wastewaters into a suitable wetland to ensure growth and health of the wetland. Mr. Vernon Banks met us on site at the Joyce Wildlife Management Area located south of Ponchatoula. Mr. Banks explained that on average 3 million to 4 million gallons of water is dispersed on a daily basis. The quality of the water is monitored multiple times per week to ensure the safety of the public and wildlife.
Our final stop of the day was the City of Ponchatoula, home of the nationally known Strawberry Festival. Ponchatoula Mayor, Bob Zabbia explained the structure of the City of Ponchatoula Government and discussed the economic growth and success that has occurred in Ponchatoula. Mayor Zabbia attributed much of the economic success to the ability of Ponchatoula to attract new businesses (Walmart and Race Trac) and expansion and retooling of current businesses such as Elmer Candy Corporation. For more information about the City of Ponchatoula visit their website at http://cityofponchatoula.com.
We'd like to thank the many speakers who shared their time and expertise with us. Their dedication to our communities and parish was clearly evident and makes Tangipahoa Parish the place to live. The Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2018 looks forward to an exciting year as we learn more about our parish, our resources, and our culture.
We would like to thank our program sponsors First Guaranty Bank and Southeastern Louisiana University.
Lastly, we would like to say a special thank you to program facilitator Nick Gagliano for organizing a wonderful educational experience for our class.
Sharmaine Robertson & Ralph Wood
First Guaranty Bank
First Guaranty Bank
Mrs. Sharmaine Robertson has been employed with First Guaranty Bank for 7 1/2 years. Her current role as a BSA Analyst includes identifying, researching, and escalating suspicious or unusual activity. Her role is critical for protecting the company by ensuring compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), USA Patriot Act, and other relevant anti-money laundering rules and regulations. Mrs. Robertson became a certified BSA/AML Profession May, 2017. She gives special thanks to First Guaranty Bank for not only sponsoring her but also for their continued support throughout her career.
Dr. Ralph Wood is the Asst. Dean for College of Nursing and Health Sciences and a Professor of Health Education at Southeastern Louisiana University. Dr. Wood has a Ph.D. in Health Promotion and MS in Rehabilitation Counseling from Southern Illinois University - Carbondale. He is a Certified Health Education Specialist and a Fellow of the American School Health Association. Dr. Wood's teaching and research interests are substance abuse prevention, health coaching/chronic disease self-management, and Motivational Interviewing. He is an active member of TRACC Coalition. Prior to joining the faculty at Southeastern Louisiana University, Dr. Wood worked as an adolescent substance abuse counselor.