Council reappoints Smith to housing board

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2011



LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council on Tuesday approved the re-appointment of Art Smith to the parish’s Housing Authority Board two weeks after removing him and the four other members of the board of commissioners.

Prior to being removed from the board earlier this month, Smith, an Edgard resident, had served as a housing authority commissioner since July 2009. During his tenure, the actions of the housing authority were examined and critiqued in a scathing audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Councilman Haston Lewis, who represents the west bank, made the nomination at Tuesday’s meeting but would not discuss it afterward saying he didn’t wish to alienate other council members.

The vote was not unanimous in favor of Smith. Councilmembers Charles Julien and Jaclyn Hotard both voted against the nomination. Meanwhile, Lewis, Raydel Morris, Danny Millet, Ronnie Smith, Cheryl Millet and Steve Lee voted to approve the nominee. Darnel Usry was absent.

Prior to the vote, Julien voiced his dissent, saying all removed board members should be treated equally.

“It is unfair to those individuals who were there at the same time,” Julien said.

Hotard agreed, saying it is best to start with a completely new board.

“We decided to remove the whole board, and my original vote was to start fresh,” she said. “We need to keep going in that new direction.”

The council also approved the appointment of Clarence Narcisse as a tenant representative for the housing authority. Narcisse was nominated by Council Chairman Ronnie Smith, and approval was unanimous.

Tuesday’s two appointments complete the five-member housing authority panel. The other three board members – Iona Holloway, Deshanda Firmin and Melissa Faucheux – were appointed during a special meeting two weeks ago that followed the council meeting in which the original board was removed.

In other action from Tuesday’s meeting, the council unanimously approved Parish President Natalie Robottom’s appointment of Mike Trege as the parish director of emergency preparedness. Tregre takes over for Paul Oncale, who is retiring after spending 10 years at the post.

Tregre, who has been receiving training from Oncale over the past few weeks, officially takes the job Feb. 4 at 4:31 p.m., one minute after Oncale’s retirement. Tregre said he was excited to be given an opportunity to continue to serve the parish.

“The training has been hard but very, very good,” Tregre said. “I still have a lot to learn.”

Tregre’s new position, which comes with a $75,000 per year salary, involves overseeing the parish’s fire departments, public buildings and emergency preparedness.

“I hope I have made a difference in making the parish a better place to live,” Oncale said.