By Suzanne Le Breton
St. Tammany News
Published on Friday, May 6, 2011 12:17 AM CDT
He may have come in under not so ideal circumstances, but Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere has gotten a lot accomplished in his first year of office.
His goal was to move the city forward past its problems of the past.
One of his first acts as mayor was to hire a new city attorney and new city engineer. He also established a new open RFQ process to identify qualified engineering firms to do business with the city and set up a Code of Conduct committee, which set up ethics requirements and training and a policy for contractors to sign affidavits stating they know ethics laws before they do business with the city.
Understanding that many projects had been put on hold while the city was undergoing a time of adjustment following the release of a scathing report for the legislative auditor’s office and the arrest of former Mayor Eddie Price, Villere took the opportunity to move many of those forward during his first year in office.
Some of those projects, the historic Jourdan House, a new Website, a plan for the Town Center in Old Mandeville and an overhaul of the city’s geographic imaging system, are things Villere stated the past city administration “danced around for years.”
A contract has been awarded to move the Jourdan House; a new, user-friendlier Website was launched and a charrette was recently held to design a plan for the Town Center.
Another item that has discussed for years but not acted on until Villere’s administration is the hiring of a cultural development director.
Under his administration, the city adopted a procedure to handle blighted properties and worked with residents and business owners in Old Mandeville address noise and hours of operation.
The city started beautification projects at the city’s entrances and recently awarded a contract to buy and install new playground equipment at the harbor.
Villere stated the city will follow that up with plans to buy new equipment on the west end of the Lakefront, at City Hall and at the Lamarque Street playground.
Villere has been working with the city’s new engineer to prioritize street and drainage projects, which have all been placed on hold for the past two years, and the sewer treatment facility just underwent some much needed upgrades.
The mayor has been criticized for rushing to spend too much money too fast.
However, he stated it is not that he is rushing to spend money on a lot of projects; rather there are a lot of projects that have been on hold and finally the city is at a point where it can move forward with them.
“I am not looking for ways to spend money,” he said. “I am looking to satisfy a need in the community and to satisfy previous commitments. When the city started having difficulty, everything was put on hold.”
Villere stated he is doing an assessment with the city engineer on things “that have not been looked at for over two years.”
Villere recently received the results from an operations study he had ordered at the beginning of his administration.
He plans to meet with the committee formed to handle the awarding of the study to discuss the ideal way to implement the recommended changes.
Many of those changes involving rewriting job descriptions and updating the city’s GIS system.
He stated he will hold a public meeting to discuss how to move forward with the results of the operations study.
One thing he knows the city needs is a long-term technology plan.
He stated the city needs to continue its work creating a usable GIS system and preparing for its future technology needs.
He hopes to expand the on-line services for residents to include permitting, bill pay and citation paying.
As he enters his second year in office, Villere stated he does not anticipate to have as many new projects starting up as in his first year of office and will focus more time on looking at the city’s finances and operations.
“I will be looking at long-term financial sustainability,” he said.
His term ends in July; however, Villere stated he does plan to run again for a full term in the February election.
Copyright © 2011 St. Tammany News
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