[StBernard] Taffaro vows to take team approach

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Jan 7 23:27:41 EST 2008

Taffaro vows to take team approach
St. Bernard president's swearing-in Tuesday
Monday, January 07, 2008
By Paul Rioux
St. Bernard bureau

After Hurricane Katrina laid waste to St. Bernard Parish, Parish Councilman
Craig Taffaro quickly developed a reputation as a hands-on leader with a
razor-sharp focus on details, keeping tabs on the parish's recovery through
a constant stream of e-mails and text messages on his ever-present
Blackberry and laptop computer.

Taffaro has been so engrossed in the rebuilding of St. Bernard that when he
was elected parish president in November, even some of his supporters
wondered whether he might try to do too much.

But on the eve of his inauguration, Taffaro said he is well aware that he
can't go it alone.

"Overseeing the parish's recovery is an overwhelming task. It's certainly
not anything that any one person could do," said Taffaro, who will be sworn
in Tuesday as St. Bernard's fourth parish president since the police jury
form of government was replaced by the Home Rule Charter in 1992.

Taffaro said he will not hesitate to delegate responsibility to the nine
Cabinet members he recently announced.

"This is a group of people who have a deep, vested interest in St. Bernard
as a whole. In addition to a high level of professional experience and
education, they have the capacity to be real leaders in their areas," said
Taffaro, who defeated incumbent Henry "Junior" Rodriguez in a bitter runoff
in November.

Despite the bare-knuckles campaign, Taffaro will retain several department
heads who served under Rodriguez.

Dave Peralta, a longtime friend of Taffaro's, will continue to serve as
chief administrative officer. A former police detective who has a master's
degree in public administration, Peralta's salary will be $80,000.

Kevin Clark, a certified human resources officer, will continue to serve as
director of the personnel department, earning $61,000.

Amy Blanchard, who has a college degree in accounting, will stay on part
time as director of finance until a permanent replacement is found. She will
be paid a prorated amount based on an $80,000 annual salary.

Taffaro said he offered the position to two people who turned it down after
receiving a counteroffer from their current employers. He said Blanchard
plans to leave parish government for the private sector.

David Paysee will continue to serve as the parish's attorney, a position he
has held since the early 1990s. His salary will be $89,000.

Marine Reserve Lt. Col. David Dysart will stay on as director of homeland
security and emergency preparedness at a salary of $68,000.

Lonnie Campbell will continue as director of the transit department, earning

Linda Daly will be the new director of public works, overseeing all
engineering and infrastructure projects. Daly, who is now managing director
of the parish's water and sewer systems, will be paid $85,000.

Donnie Bourgeois will be the new director of the parks and recreation
department. Bourgeois, who is a self-employed financial planner with 20
years as a coach and volunteer for various recreation programs, will be paid

Karen Turni Bazile, a former Times-Picayune reporter who covered St.
Bernard, will be Taffaro's executive assistant, handling public relations
and serving as the state and federal legislative coordinator. Her salary is

Looking beyond his Cabinet, Taffaro said he plans to meet with every parish
employee to solicit ideas to help guide the parish's recovery.

"The recovery will be team-driven, and I'm not just talking about department
heads. I'm talking about everyone in St. Bernard Parish government," he
said. "Regardless of how small someone might think their job is, they have a
role to play in the recovery."

Taffaro, whose $70,000 salary is set by the parish charter, said he received
about three dozen applications for the Cabinet positions.

"The applicant pool reflects the overall employee pool for the metropolitan
area: It's pretty tight," he said. "But we still managed to get some very
qualified people to apply."

Taffaro and the seven Parish Council members will be sworn in Tuesday at
noon at the Nunez Community College auditorium in Chalmette. A council
meeting will follow the ceremony.

The two returning council members are Kenny Henderson in District C and
Ricky Melerine, the District E incumbent who was elected to the at-large
seat in the eastern district.

The five newcomers are Frank Auderer, at-large western district; Ray Lauga
Jr., District A; George Cavignac, District B; Mike Ginart, District D; and
Fred Everhardt Jr., District E.

. . . . . . .

Paul Rioux can be reached at prioux at timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3321.

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