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Mayor-elect Cantrell unveils transition advisory board

16th January 2018   ·   0 Comments

On Wednesday of last week, Mayor-elect Latoya Cantrell, the City of New Orleans’ first female mayor and the first “outsider” elected to lead the city in several decades, introduced members of her transition advisory board on the campus of her college alma mater, Xavier University.

The former District B City Councilwoman also announced that former Xavier University President Dr. Norman Francis, former Aspen Institute CEO and ex-CNN executive Walter Isaacson, and Gail Benson, wife of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson, will serve as honorary co-chairs of her transition board.

Cantrell, who was elected in a historic, all-female runoff this past November and will take over the reins at City Hall this spring, said after Wednesday’s announcement that she hopes to name her chief administrative officer by the time she takes the oath of office in May.

“That, of course, will be a search that has to happen prior to May 7,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell, who has been a vocal critic of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board after failed pumps led to flooding in New Orleans last year, said another top priority will be making significant improvements at the troubled agency. One of her first moves as mayor will be to hire a new executive director for the agency, she told FOX 8 News Wednesday.

“The Sewerage and Water Board is on fire and we have to put that fire out, and we will do so collectively and in the spirit of ensuring that we have infrastructure that all of our residents can depend on,” said Cantrell.

Cantrell recently joined New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu at a Jan. 8 closed-door meeting at the S&WB on the day the agency’s interim executive director Marcie Edwards took over the reins. Edwards, a longtime California water and power utility official, will serve in that capacity for five months and will be paid $25,000 a month and a $5,000 monthly stipend for living expenses.

In terms of the promised national and local search for the police chief, Cantrell said there will be a transition committee that is focused solely on the NOPD, and it will make recommendations on candidates. But during media questions, Cantrell allowed that the timetable for choosing the chief is not cemented.

“It can come even before taking office, it could come right at May 7, or it can come even at the start of 2019. But I’m not top-down, I’m truly bottom-up. I am engaging people for a reason, meaning that I look at their core competencies and their skill sets,” she said.

Mayor-elect Cantrell and her transition team did not have an answer to the question of whether current NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison would be asked to stay on if the search process goes on beyond the time the current mayor, Mitch Landrieu, leaves office.

“It is a position I want to keep, and I’ve made that known,” Harrison told reporters just hours before Cantrell’s press event.

Harrison, who oversaw a reduction in murders in 2017 despite a rise in non-fatal police shootings, told FOX 8 News that he is willing to go through whatever selection process the incoming mayor puts in place.

“We did meet for a crime briefing the week before the election,” Harrison said. “That came up, so she is aware, but I do understand that there is a process and I’m happy when the time presents itself to participate in that process. Right now it is my entire focus. One hundred percent of my focus and energy is making sure that we provide public safety to the citizens and visitors of New Orleans right now until the end of this administration.”

Cantrell’s transition spokeswoman said the advisory board members will oversee various committees.

An announcement about the transition plan and committee members is expected this week.

This article originally published in the January 15, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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