Two new positions presented to Ascension Parish Council

Michael Tortorich

Christel Slaughter, CEO of SSA Consultants, discussed the creation of two new parish government job positions with the Ascension Parish Council Feb. 18.

Ascension Parish Chief Administrative Officer John Diez addresses the council during the Feb 18 meeting.

The council met at the Courthouse East Annex in Gonzales, marking a return to in-person attendance after holding virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Slaughter presented the new positions as deputy chief administrative officer and chief information officer.

Deputy CAO was modeled from work currently being performed and from similar positions at other jurisdictions. The annual pay rate starts at about $81,000 with a maximum of $104,000.

The employee would assist the parish president and chief administrative officer with daily department operations and coordination of the president’s direct staff, as needed. A bachelor’s degree and/or one to three years of related experience is required.

Chief Information Officer would pay at least $67,000, with a maximum of $94,000.

Slaughter said the CIO would focus on utilizing software, as well as tracking and managing data.

For the CIO position, she said mastery of the field was more important. It requires an associate’s degree with specific subject matter related to the job’s functions.

Council Chair Teri James Casso said these kinds of recommendations represented why the parish began working with the consultant.

“These kinds of things were the purpose of bringing Christel in and having a real professional look at our organization and how it should be structured,” Casso said.

Slaughter said she thought both of the positions are necessary.

“I think you would get tremendous results from both of them,” she said.

District 4’s Corey Orgeron expressed concerns about parish government getting “top heavy.”

“At some point, it has to stop,” Orgeron said.

Alvin “Coach” Thomas of District 1 felt the positions were “political positions.”

“That’s all I’ve got to say about it,” Thomas concluded his brief statement.

Slaughter looked at budget, population, rural-urban qualities, and economic activity in determining administrative positions. She said Ascension Parish is in a higher class than most Louisiana parishes, comparing it with more affluent parishes like St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes.

“We see more in the administrative officers there,” she said.

Aaron Lawler of District 7 was concerned about the education and experience requirements for such high-paying positions.

Chief Administrative Officer John Diez said the top jobs in parish government are less than the previous administration.

“I’ll be honest with you, $85,000 is not top heavy,” Diez said. “Most people work at plants and make $85,000. Top heavy would be six figures.”

Diez said he wanted to go on the record to say both positions are needed.

“We don’t function in the sense that we are just trying to do what everybody did for the last 30 years,” he said.

Slaughter said she and the administration recommended the jobs and the details go before the council as a matter of transparency.

In other matters: 

Parish President Clint Cointment proclaimed both Mike Sage Day and Supermarket Employee Day. 

Sage received a liver transplant in 2016 and marked the fifth anniversary Jan. 30 by riding his bicycle from his Prairieville home to Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans.

“This community has been fantastic for me. I can’t say enough. Being diagnosed with this kind of illness. I always wanted to know why. I fought this for a long time. But everything fell into place,” Sage said.

-- Also in the parish president’s report, he said the parish’s COVID-19 percent positivity rate had decreased from 10.3 to 5.1.