East Ascension Drainage Board works on director's job description ahead of search

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
In a file photo from July 2, a downpour caused flooding in parts of Ascension Parish. The East Ascension Drainage Board has been hammering out job description details for a drainage director position.

Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants went over the job description for the new drainage director of the East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District during the Feb. 7 meeting in Gonzales.

Slaughter said the selection process includes a review board created by Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment and the East Ascension Drainage Board, which consists of all parish council members with the exception of the west side's representative.

According to Slaughter's presentation, the board will recommend the top two to four candidates as finalists for the director position. The final selection will be approved by a supermajority of the board.

SSA Consultants will conduct the executive search. Slaughter said the consultant firm has assisted other area municipalities and parish governments in such searches.

SSA Consultants has worked on finding a director for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority with U.S. Congressman Garret Graves, as well as directors for entities within East Baton Rouge Parish government and an executive director for the newly consolidated South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority for Orleans, St. Bernard, Jefferson, and Plaquemines parishes.

The position profile points out Ascension Parish is one of the fastest growing county-equivalent jurisdictions in the country. The East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District seeks a drainage/flood control director who is a "proven leader and experienced professional with a passion for delivering high-quality services."

The ideal candidate, according to the profile, would understand how to work across division and departmental lines to provide oversight of the staff and budget dedicated to such activities.

The director would be part of the parish's leadership team, supporting the board and parish president with "the vision of improving citizens' quality of life while ensuring public health and safety."

Further, the director would be "a visionary leader who has a passion for the work they do and the team they lead, who is enthusiastic about serving the entire parish and providing excellent customer service."

Minimum qualifications included:

  • Seven years of increasingly responsible experience in municipal public works operations or in a consultancy.
  • Equivalent of a bachelor's degree with course work in civil engineering, public administration, or a related field.
  • Possession of a valid Louisiana driver's license.

Desired qualifications included:

  • Strong background in drainage, floodplain management, and stormwater management.
  • Certified Flood Plain Manager certification.
  • Possession of a professional engineer license from the state.

During the discussion on the qualifications, board member Aaron Lawler said he had mixed thoughts on the matter.

"Part of my concern jumps ahead to job functions. I don't envision this person as being an engineer. I don't envision this person as somebody we're going to go to as a commission and ask for engineering work, or to stamp projects. This person is going to be a director. Going to be looking at budgeting in the big picture, and really managing a large group of people and a large staff," Lawler said.

Cointment said a professional engineer license would not necessarily be a must for the position.

"We're shooting for the stars. We're looking for that unicorn here. I think we certainly should have it in our description as a desire," the president said.

The board went on to approve the qualifications without objection.

Knowledge, skill, and abilities included additional "highlights" of what would be looked for in the search for a candidate, Slaughter said.

In discussing the job functions, Cointment said the director's duties would be clear.

He anticipated a six-month to one-year time period to initially assist a new hire with getting familiar with the parish.

"I think it's going to be huge for this drainage department. I really do. I think it's going to be one of the best things we've done in a long time," Cointment said.

The board also looked at two proposed options as to how the director will fit into the organizational chart.

Board member Teri Casso expressed pride in the administration and SSA's work on the matter.

"I think this might be the first time I've had a presentation in ten years that said, 'Here's your options,'" she said.

Board member Dempsey Lambert warned of April showers on the way in the spring bringing a sense of urgency. 

"The quicker the better," Lambert said. That's just me. We cannot let this go out four or five months. We need something in the next month or two. And let's move on."