Always in flux, Ascension Parish Government’s personnel roster totaled 426 employees at the beginning of December with an aggregate payroll of $21,516,883 according to documents produced in response to a records request on December 19. Three years into the current administration’s term there have been significant reductions from its predecessor’s bloated roster that topped out at 540 employees and a $22,850,000 annual payroll toward the end of 2019.
If you’re counting, that is 114 fewer employees and $1,333,000 taxpayer dollars committed to payroll with no appreciable reduction in services that we can discern. Addition by subtraction was the rule early on in President Clint Cointment’s tenure, having inherited a roster littered with political hires, many of whom left voluntarily (especially those in top tier positions). For two years (2020-21) it was a steady decline before settling into a stable range.
As depicted above, the employee roster does fluctuate from month-to- month.
Roster stability has been established at the top while retaining half of the individuals in the ratifiable positions in the preceding administration. Halfway into former president Kenny’s Matassa’s embarrassing tenure the governing authority attempted to wrest some control from the executive. The governing authority added two departments, with department heads subject to council ratification; Lamar Dixon Expo Center and Infrastructure Division Director.
The latter was created specifically for William Daniel who came aboard with a singular goal in mind; bringing regional sewer treatment to east bank Ascension Parish in the guise of the Jim Bernhard-owned conglomerate dubbed Ascension Sewer. A terrible deal for the parish was derailed when President-Elect Clint Cointment and a roomful of angry citizens…
stood up at a Special Meeting of the lame duck Parish Council on December 20, 2019. Six council members would not return in 2020, nor would William Daniel whose former position as Infrastructure Division Director remains vacant after three years and appears superfluous. Kyle Rogers, General Manager over Lamar Dixon, is a holdover from the former administration.
In August of 2020 the Council formalized two existing departments by ordinance with ratifiable directors. Former Chief Engineer Joey Tureau was elevated as the Transportation Director; Brandon O’Deay became Ascension’s first Director of the Technology department. At the same time a new department, Planning and Facility Maintenance was created with Ricky Compton, the former Planning and Development Director fired by Matassa in 2016, appointed by Cointment and ratified…
with nearly unanimous council support.
Two holdovers from the Matassa regime were retained as Jerome Fournier (Planning & Development) and Ron Savoy (Public Works).
Cointment hit the jackpot with two hires in positions mandated in the Home Rule Charter, Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer and Human Resources/Personnel Director. Patrick Goldsmith was tabbed to fill the gargantuan shoes of longtime CFO Gwen LeBlanc whose tenure predated the existence of home rule governance. Goldsmith, a native of Gonzales, enjoyed a distinguished career with Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor and heading up the House of Representatives’ fiscal division. Lucy Cason has professionalized one of the parish’s most embattled departments after 22 years in Federal Human Resources with the Department of the Navy, Army, & Marine Corps.
The Utilities Department was created by ordinance in 2008, its directorship made a ratified position a decade later. It was not until this year that the Council ratified a Utilities Director when Matthew Didier was approved. One more ratifiable position (pursuant to the Charter), Cointment named the capable John Diez as Chief Administrative Officer in January of 2020. With a recalcitrant council majority often at loggerheads with the chief executive, Diez had his hands full early on but things have settled down.
Diez is the point man for Early Childhood Development in Donaldsonville, a potentially transformative and much needed project, in addition to a plethora of other duties. Ably assisted by one of President Cointment’s wisest hires, former council member Bill Dawson joined the team as a Professional Project Manager brings a wealth of experience and a boatload of ability. While not a ratifiable position, Dawson is an influential voice in the administration (and that is a great thing).
But none of it means much without those 400+ other employees tasked with the day-to-day operation of Ascension Parish Government. Easily the biggest department, East Ascension Drainage (with east bank DPW)/Fleet, is the product of a Intergovernmental Agreement between East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District No. 1 and parish government. With 141 employees (33% of the total manpower), it is by far the largest department.
In descending order of employees, the other departments are:
- Lamar Dixon Expo Center-27
- Road & Bridge-25
- Health Unit/Jail-20
- Mosquito Control-18
- Public Works (West)-17
- Human Resources-11
- Mental Health-9
- Emergency Preparedness-7
- Animal Control-4