Gissel: Downtown’s success can be model for parish

Darryl Gissel, selected this week as the No. 2 in Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s administration, said he hopes to help fill in missing pieces in city-parish agencies as well as expand the model used for revitalizing downtown across the rest of the parish.

Gissel, a longtime Republican who ran as an independent for mayor last year, will begin serving as Broome’s Chief Administrative Officer on Monday. Interim CAO Jim Llorens will stay on for two weeks as a transition period.

“Downtown’s success needs to be a model for the rest of the parish,” Gissel said after a press conference at City Hall. “Many times we think we can’t make change and can’t improve things. Downtown shows we can.”

Worth noting: The revitalization of downtown was aided by a state government construction spree of office buildings and parking garages under former Gov. Mike Foster.

Formerly a staffer in Gov. Dave Treen’s administration, Gissel has sinced worked as a businessman and community activist. He has been deeply involved in Spanish Town and is an active member of the real estate community.

In spending time with city-parish agencies, Gissel added there are “missing pieces” in certain agencies—like key deadlines and dates—that he wants to help fill in.

Davis Rhorer, director of the Downtown Development District who has worked with Gissel for more than 30 years, spoke highly of the choice.

“He was one of the early participants as a private sector developer in helping us with downtown development,” Rhorer says.

After Gissel was knocked out of the mayor’s race, he endorsed Broome and has remained a close advisor, the mayor said. He also served as a co-chair on the transition committee that recommended Broome consolidate three city-parish agencies that deal with blight and redevelopment, an idea that led to one of her only major policy moves this year.

When Broome announced her transition teams last December, she said none of the co-chairs would serve in the administration. When asked today about hiring Gissel, a co-chair, Broome said she had later clarified that only a handful of her top advisors during the transition—Chris Tyson, Raymond Jetson and Donna Fraiche—would not be eligible to serve in the administration. Broome has picked Tyson to lead the newly-retooled East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, an agency created by legislative mandate.

“I wouldn’t say this is a renege,” Broome said of her vow not to hire members of the transition team. She later added that it has been several months since the transition teams made their recommendations and that the original goal of the promise was to ensure people were not joining the transition team simply to get administration posts.

In defending her administration, which has gone through staff turmoil in its first few months, Broome said “our administration has run like a well-oiled machine.” A key advisor stepped down this summer over controversy about an anti-crime program, and her previous permanent CAO lasted just days on the job, being fired after lies on his résumé were exposed.

Broome also said today the candidates for police chief took the civil service exam this week and it will take four to six weeks to get the results back, at which point she will whittle down the list to several finalists with the help of a civilian group. She anticipates having a new chief by the end of the year.

—Sam Karlin

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