NEW ORLEANS -- Among the most pressing issues Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell will inherit when she takes office on May 7 is the Sewerage & Water Board, the beleaguered agency that has been under intense scrutiny since the July 22 and Aug. 5 floods.
“We have significant risks -- substantial risks -- that are tied to the Sewerage & Water Board, and that’s something that I am working on right now with current mayor,” Cantrell said. “The Sewerage & Water Board is on fire, and we have to put that fire out and we will do so collectively.”
She made those statements as she announced a roster of several familiar names who will makeup her transition team during what was her first major press briefing since being elected Nov. 17.
Cantrell said she has spent the month-and-a-half since the election at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, looking at where the city has been and where plotting out it needs to go.
The team will help her make those decisions, she said.
“We will provide the leadership that is needed to make sure we’re having an effective transition so that we’re able to hit the ground running serving out city.”
She said the S&WB’s next executive director will be hired on her watch and that interim Executive Director Marcie Edwards will help to determine what skills that person will need.
During her campaign, Cantrell promised a national search for a new police chief, something she said a working group of her transition team will spearhead. She has said that current Police Superintendent Michael Harrison will be invited to apply for the job again.
There will be seven committees to address several major hires, including her chief administrative officer.
Honorary co-chairs of Cantrell’s transition team are: Norman Francis, retired president of Xavier University; Walter Isaacson, an author and journalist who now teaches at Tulane; and Gayle Benson, wife of Tom Benson.
Also leading the team are John Pourciau, her chief of staff while she led District B, and one of her former opponents, retired Civil Court Judge Michael Bagneris.
The transition board of advisors includes: Kathleen Kennedy, Matt Wisdom, Andrea Chen, Vaughn Randolph Fauria, Caroline Fayard, Norris Henderson, Anamaria Villamarin-Lupin, Judge David R.M. Williams, Anne Milling, Willie Muhammad, Vincenzo Pasquantonio, Dana Peterson, Bonita A. Robertson, Matt Schwartz and Ian Tucker.
While Cantrell has been slow to name names of who’ll make up her inner circle at City Hall compared to prior mayor-elects, WWL-TV political analyst and Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos said she’s starting to send the right signals.
“She's got high-profile, recognizable, very trusted co-chairs, and she's got people on the ground who have experience in government like Mr. Pourciau and Michael Bagneris and others,” DuBos said. “I think she's off to a good start.