Landrieu's top deputy to leave City Hall for job in water policy

NEW ORLEANS -- Jeff Hebert, the chief administrative officer for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, has announced plans to leave his top spot at City Hall to work for a research institute on water management.

In a news release issued Monday, Landrieu's Press Secretary Erin Burns said Hebert would be named the vice president for adaptation and resilience for the Water Institute of the Gulf, a non-profit research institute in Baton Rouge. The group was formed in 2012 to help execute the multi-billion dollar coastal restoration plan.

Hebert was a frequent fixture at Sewerage & Water Board meetings in recent months, where he served as Landrieu's proxy for the vast majority of the meetings.

As a voting member of the board, Hebert made the official motion to accept an emergency declaration in March so the S&WB could try to fix several power turbines that failed. Landrieu said nobody told him the turbines had failed months before major power problems caused flooding in July and August. Hebert later told WWL-TV that he did not unserstand the turbines failed in March when that emergency was presented to the board.

Landrieu first hired Hebert to oversee blight reduction in 2010. The mayor then used never-before-seen influence to cause the independent New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to hire Hebert as its executive director. Landrieu then appointed Hebert the city’s first chief resilience officer, an umbrella title that allowed Hebert to keep overseeing NORA while working directly for the Landrieu administration.

Hebert was named CAO in 2016 after Andy Kopplin left to head up the Greater New Orleans Foundation, a philanthropic organization providing grants and funding for both non-profit and government initiatives. 

Hebert quickly rose through the ranks in the Landrieu Administration, from his post fighting blight to CAO in seven years. 

The Water Institute, where Hebert will soon work, is no stranger to New Orleans. It was part of the interim management team that, until last week, was leading the S&WB in the aftermath of two devastating floods last summer in which the city's drainage system failed.

In a press release announcing that the team would include Ehab Meselhe the Water Institute's vice president for science and engineering, the group's president and CEO was quoted as saying, “We look forward to delivering actionable recommendations for immediate, near-term, and long-term steps that not only address emergency flood issues, but also inform future planning for long-term resilience that incorporate the most innovative practices of living with water."

Those recommendations have not yet been made public. 

Hebert is expected to assume the role of the Water Institute's VP of resilience in mid-December. 

Landrieu named Deputy Mayor Judy Reese-Morse as Hebert's replacement in the role of CAO.

David Hammer contributed to this report.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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