Ascension Parish hires a new recreation director

Kyle Riviere
Parish President Kenny Matassa (left) with new Recreation Director B.J. Romano (right).

The Ascension Parish Recreation Committee has a new director.

On Monday, Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa announced that the parish has hired B.J. Romano to fill the position.

Romano is a resident of St. Amant, and he has been an active figure in athletics in that community over the years.

He has two daughters that are current standouts in softball and basketball at St. Amant High School, and Romano has been coaching the 007 recreation softball team. This past summer, his squad brought home a fourth Gulf Coast national championship after winning the tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Overall, Romano has more than 20 years of experience in coordinating athletic leagues in the parish.

In addition to softball, he has also coordinated youth baseball, adult flag football and basketball.

Most recently, Romano has worked in athletic maintenance at the Ascension Parish School Board. He was responsible for maintaining the fields and equipment and work-order management.

The position of recreation director has been in flux for a while in Ascension Parish.

Less than two years ago, Brandon Berthelot was hired for the position, but not long after he took the job, he was demoted from the title of “Recreation Director” to “Recreation Supervisor.”

Then, seven months after being initially hired, Berthelot was fired for a “policy violation.”

Ricky DeArmond became the interim director and has been serving in that capacity since Berthelot was fired back in August of 2016.

Romano is now set to take over as permanent director, but his hiring did not come without a little controversy.

At the Sept. 14 recreation committee meeting (four days prior to Romano taking over), members of the committee voiced their concerns with the move.

Councilman Travis Turner said that he and Councilman Aaron Lawler both sat in during the interviewing of Romano and two other candidates for the position.

Turner said that he thought the other two candidates were more qualified for the job.

Lawler mostly echoed those sentiments, saying that he thought Romano was “qualified to do some great work with recreation. My concern is with the director position and the experience it takes to do that.”

He continued by saying that the “greatest need in recreation now is how we spend our money, how we spend it efficiently, and through that, we can maintain things better. I don’t want to cast dispersions on the person that may be taking the job, because I think they have qualifications that we need. However, I think right now, recreation is in need of someone with a lot of budgeting experience and experience as a recreation director, experience in the field of fundraising also.

“The other two candidates had that experience. They also had experience in recreation, not athletics. Recreation in the parish is not just athletics. We have outdoor activities, potential boat launches, we have dog parks, we have walking trails.”

Although, President Matassa is confident in Romano’s ability to perform at a high level.

“Recreational opportunities for kids and adults are vital services provided by parish government,” Matassa said. “B.J. is ready to throw himself into the task of maintaining and expanding recreation in Ascension Parish.”

As director, Romano plans on standardizing facility maintenance, creating a good relationship with the Gonzales Soccer Club for the operations of the athletic complex at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center and pursuing opportunities—such as dog parks and walking trails.

He will also be advocating for new sources of recreation funding.