Ascension Parish Council hears consultant recommendations on parish positions

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Ascension Parish Council members listen to a speaker during the Oct. 7 meeting at the courthouse in Donaldsonville. Shown from left are Aaron Lawler, Dal Waguespack, John Cagnolatti, and Michael Mason.

The Ascension Parish Council delved into recommendations for job descriptions during the Oct. 7 meeting held at the courthouse in Donaldsonville.

Dr. Christel Slaughter, CEO of SSA Consultants, and consultant Cody Saucier went over several positions with council members.

The titles included three Data Analyst positions, Community Outreach Coordinator,  three Drainage Engineer positions, Director of Performance Accountability and Data Analytics, Director of Health and Community Development, and Director of Human Resources/Personnel Director.

More details of each, including the position descriptions, are available on the agenda packet at the parish's website.

Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants speaks to the Ascension Parish Council during the Oct. 7 meeting at the courthouse in Donaldsonville.

Slaughter has more than 30 years of experience in leading organizational change and planning efforts. Representative clients include the City of Baton Rouge, Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, Blueprint Louisiana, and Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.

She said Ascension Parish's government competes with private industry up and down the Mississippi River, which often attracts quality candidates with higher pay and benefits.

Ascension Parish is a relatively wealthy parish, comparable to St. Tammany on the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain, she pointed out.

"You end up with positions where if you want to get talent it's going to cost you," 

Patrick Goldsmith, who previously worked for SSA Consultants before becoming the Chief Financial Officer for the parish, said the positions discussed may have new titles, but some are already budgeted.

Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment speaks during the Oct. 7 Ascension Parish Council meeting at the courthouse in Donaldsonville.

Chair Teri Casso said President Clint Cointment and his administration deserve praise for embracing the recommendations brought forth by the consultants. 

"The culture has to change for these positions to be welcomed. I genuinely believe we are there. We have the leadership in place to make it happen, and we have paid for and worked with Christel and her team for years to get it right," Casso said.

Further information will be made available in coming weeks, she added.

"What you are recommending takes us to another level of professionalism that our citizens deserve. We have the funds and we need to get it done," Casso said.

Cointment followed with an upbeat message, saying parish government will "go get the best and brightest" and will be competitive with the private sector.

"This is where we all do this together to bring parish government to another level," Cointment said.

In other matters during the meeting:

-- The council approved Oct. 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. for Halloween trick or treating activities in Ascension Parish.

-- A slide presentation was given by Planning and Facilities Director Ricky Compton on the planned St. Amant library and community center. 

Due to flooding concerns, he said the facility will be built on piers.

Ascension Parish Office Of Homeland Security Director Rachael Wilkinson added that the building will be useful during emergencies such as hurricanes and floods.

-- The Ascension Parish Library is in the final stages of planning its renovation for the Donaldsonville branch, according to APL Director John Stelly.

The entire facility will be remodeled, tentatively starting in December. Its design will fit into the Donaldsonville historic district. 

"It's going to be a facility that's more than just books because libraries are more than just books," Stelly said.

-- Cedric Grant, who formerly served as Chief Administrative Officer for the parish, gave a presentation on the parish's water system.

Grant said he worked with the water system of Clark County in Nevada. The county, which includes Las Vegas, has a population of more than 2.2 million people.

He suggested the parish take advantage of opportunities for federal grants to improve its water system.