St. John committee gauges progress

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 23, 2010



LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish residents had the opportunity Thursday to gain some insight into the work of committees that are helping Parish President Natalie Robottom determine the future course and direction of the parish.

The brief meeting was the first gathering of all eight committee chairmen leading Robottom’s Presidential Advisory Committee since the group was formed in early June. About 100 residents packed into Lace Reception Hall on Airline Highway in LaPlace to listen to brief remarks from each chairperson about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats pertaining to their respective subcommittees.

“This is a chore you all have accepted willingly,” Robottom said to the committee chairs. “You’re here because you are concerned about St. John Parish and are optimistic about its future. These are short-term committees that are helping to build a long-term plan for the parish.”

Robottom created the Presidential Advisory committee about a month after taking office in an effort to “analyze the current organizational structure of the entire parish government to define future direction and ensure taxpayer revenue is spent wisely and efficiently.”

The group is divided into eight sub-committees with specific focuses such as governmental ethics reform; public safety; employment and economic development; community development and neighborhoods; recreation, arts, culture and health and human services; finance; human resources; and infrastructure and capital improvements.

Robottom described the meeting as a “halfway point status report” of the committees’ progress. The entire group is expected to compile a recommendation report that will be delivered Aug. 16. Although all meetings of the Presidential Advisory Committee have been open to the public, Robottom said Thursday’s gathering allowed all committees to give status reports at the same time.

“The sub-committees are sometimes meeting at the same time, and there are members of some committees who are interested in the progress of the others,” Robottom said.

Governmental ethics reform Chair Geri Broussard-Baloney said her committee has found that other than state ethics rules there are no formal ethics rules in place in any parish department. One of her group’s recommendations has been a fiscal reform effort that provides a tighter grip on what is being spent.

Employment and Economic Development Chair Sean Roussel said the parish is primed for future growth because of an abundance of available land in prime locations. He said the parish should focus on keeping an educated workforce within the parish.

Community Development Chair Peggy Joseph said her group is discussing ways to make St. John Parish a more inviting place for new families and businesses. She said the parish must nurture its strong family base while considering options when it comes to better public transportation and code enforcement.

Recreation Chair Lucien Gauff said the recreation department has strong numbers of youth participants, but said the parish lacks focus when it comes to other age groups. He said the parish must work toward an all-inclusive recreational program that goes beyond organized sports. He also said the parish lacks a viable funding source and a strong relationship with industry leaders.

Robottom said future meeting schedules for all of the sub-committees can be found on the parish’s calendar at