New CAO working in familiar territory

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 15, 2010



LAPLACE – She maybe a new face in a new administration, but newly appointed St. John Chief Administrative Officer Marie Brown-Mercadel is in familiar territory.

As first assistant to newly elected Parish President Natalie Robottom, Mercadel, 46, will be charged with the task of aiding Robottom in moving the parish forward following a sudden change at the top after the resignation of former Parish President Bill Hubbard. She said the situation is very similar to the way she joined the state Department of Social Services in 2008.

“I took a position as confidential assistant just as the state was beginning to deal with the aftermath of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike,” Mercadel said. “The department was in turmoil, and we were under a microscope following the resignation of our secretary (Ann Williamson).”

Mercadel said Robottom, as director of the Governor’s Office of Community programs, assisted Social Services in directing government aid where it was most needed and assisted the secretary in finding the right resources to help the department through a change over amid a disaster situation.

“She was always calm,” Mercadel said of Robottom. “She had a lot of knowledge of the needs of the people. She was very cool under pressure. That’s where our relationship began.”

As she moved on to become Social Services Chief of Staff, Mercadel said she and Robottom often worked together on social services legislation during the 2009 legislative session.

“We shared some of the same state programs,” Mercadel said. “There was always a lot of collaboration between the two departments. We dealt with similar issues.”

Prior to her stint as a member of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s staff, Mercadel served as manager of community programs for the County of San Diego’s Aging and Independence Services, a department that suffered through staffing issues and budgeting woes.

“I walked into that job knowing the department needed a complete overhaul,” Mercadel said. “The key task was to rebuild trust and rebuild integrity of the office whether it be refining, reorganizing or redesigning.”

Mercadel said in the first two years after taking over, she worked closely with the County Board of Supervisors in an effort to revise the department’s practices and structure in an effort to make it more manageable and more efficient.

Mercadel also spent time in Dallas as an administrator for Dallas Metrocare, a quasi-government organization funded by the state that assists citizens with mental disabilities.

“The department was on the verge of shutting down due to multiple deficiencies,” Mercadel said. “We made sweeping changes to steer the organization back on track.”

Mercadel said her constant movement can be attributed to being the wife of a military man. Her original home is North Carolina, where she earned a bachelors degree in psychology and a masters degree in Organizational Leadership from North Carolina Central University. Her husband, Alvin, is a New Orleans native.

Mercadel will take the reins as Chief Adminstrative Officer on May 24.