Local leaders network at NACo

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 19, 2002


NEW ORLEANS – The 2002 convention of the National Association of Counties, held mostly at the Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, drew a sizable representation from the River Parishes.

NACo, established in 1935, includes more than 2,000 counties across America, representing 85 percent of the nation’s population.

The major event for the River Parishes was the “Parade of Louisiana,” held Sunday in the Louisiana Superdome, highlighted by a Mardi Gras-style parade and providing other delegates with a sampling of Louisiana cuisine. In the parade, parish presidents and council chairmen tossed beads and enjoyed the attention. “Louisiana has taken this over the top,” Rep. Roy Quezaire said. “This is the biggest and finest so far.”

Meanwhile, at the convention itself, speakers and forums, workshops and displays, booths and food all clamored for attention.

Government officials from the River Parishes spread out, attempting to attend as much as possible.

“I thought the seminar on community health care was good,” St. Charles Parish administrator Timothy Vial observed. “It showed that everything we’re doing with the health unit, partnering it with the hospital, is just what they’re recommending.”

That forum, “Improving Access to Health Care at Less Cost,” was held Sunday at 1 p.m.

St. John the Baptist Parish council chairman Cleveland Farlough said, “I always hit the bookstore,” and he said he made a special point to attend the workshop on understanding audits titled, “Before You Sell the Courthouse: Reading Your County’s Annual Financial Report.”

St. John Parish President Nickie Monica attended the Second General Session, where U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu had been booked to appear. Landrieu was a no-show, but Monica said the convention “lets me get to network with our peers. It’s on a larger scale than the River Region Caucus.”

St. Charles Parish Councilwoman Dee Abadie said many seminars made links to homeland security, especially in protecting computer records. Also helpful was a seminar on how to secure grant money.

St. James Parish Councilmen Wilson Malbrough, Elwyn Bocz and Tim Roussel participated in workshops on stormwater runoff, understanding audits and investing for retirement.

Sunday night’s “Parade of Louisiana,” nevertheless, remained the talk of the convention on Monday. Each parish was encouraged to present samples of home-spawned cuisine. St. Charles Parish offered alligator sauce piquante, St. James Parish had shrimp and corn soup and St. John Parish had andouille gumbo.

“There were some complaints that the lines were so long, 20 minutes and more,” Roussel said.

St. James Parish President Dale Hymel Jr. said the event allowed every parish “to put their best foot forward.”

Highly visible in the convention’s exhibit hall was the campaigning for NACO office, as the pre-teen triplet daughters of Bill Hansell, candidate for senior vice-president, had their photo taken on a Harley-Davidson.

The next venue for the NACo convention will be Milwaukee, home of Harley-Davidson, and delegates were invited to hop on one, clad in shades and leather jacket, for a free Polaroid photo.

St. Charles Parish President Albert Laque, when located in the exhibit hall, was on his way to a meeting with all Louisiana parish executives at the Plimsoll Club.

The convention ran from July 12-16. Spouses and children also enjoyed excursions, including a River Road plantation tour, with stops at Laura and Oak Alley plantations, “Plantation Splendor on the Mississippi” had stops at Houmas House, The Cabin Restaurant and San Francisco Plantation, “Plantation and Swamp Tour” included a stop at Destrehan and Ormond plantations, and visits to the New Orleans Zoo and the National D-Day Museum.