Parish is moving in the right direction with recreation

Last week a committee drawn from the worlds of government and recreation closely interviewed eleven people who want to head up Terrebonne Paris’s Recreation Department.

The process of choosing a new department head, necessitated by the cloudy departure of former director Sterling Washington, appears to be moving along in a timely fashion, although there are some open-ended questions still to be resolved.

There was no set date for closure applications and so, as parish planner and interim recreation director Chris Pulaski points out in this issue of The Times, it is possible that other candidates could emerge.

This lack of closure is one of the only problems we have with a process hastily constructed out of necessity, due to Washington leaving.

But the way Dove and his advisors have constructed the process is worthy of a few gold stars.

The most important is that a broad search was begun. While not a head-hunting operation, it is apparent that parish officials got word of the opening out into the public rapidly, leading to the casting of a big net over a wide area of geography.

When other top department vacancies have needed filling, in Terrebonne and elsewhere, we have not always seen as much attention paid to getting the word out as widely as possible. Rather, we have seen applications from :also rans” who have made careers out of feeding from the public trough, relying more on political connections and debts owed or to be paid than what is truly in the best interests of the people they express a desire to serve.

Other than in the area of gender, the applications culled for the Rec Department position were submitted by a diverse group of applicants. One, already the head of a recreation department, hails from California. Another is from Monroe, and yet another Mississippi. It is not to suggest that talent or ability is more likely to be found in these places than right in our own backyard. But the ability to hear ideas and points of view from other places, perhaps to learn of a wheel that has been invented elsewhere, is always refreshing.

We know that Parish President Gordon Dove has been criticized in the past for filling and in some cases creating positions in his administration with people whom he has enjoyed a long history, particularly at a time when the parish has been experiencing financial difficulties.

We also know that this type of hiring is not unique to this administration and that certain positions almost require the level of confidence from the executive that comes from familiarity. If anything is wrong about how Dove or his predecessors have filled key positions it is the chronic silence of Parish Council members wary of offending for fear of having their individual district projects crippled or killed who are the worst culprits. Such lack of courage is sadly deemed acceptable in many cases, not just with this Council but councils of the past.

The key to determining the sincerity of Gordon Dove when it comes to picking the best person for the Recreation Director job is dependent on his ultimate choice. We have reviewed all the resumes and applications available to date. There is a lot of talent in those files, and a lot of possibilities for matches that could be effectively made.

Based on what is in the resumes, there are some individuals who might, even if not chosen for the Recreation Director spot, could possess enough talent and insight to be considered for other positions in the future, whether or not they actually have friends in Terrebonne Parish at this point.

The mousehole through which matters of personality or politics rather than principle can still crawl through is, sadly, the still-open nature of the application process. We have in other jurisdictions seen where a favored pick has held off on submitting an application, as other candidates go through the paces, only to emerge at the end of the process as a great new hope.

The applicants in this case have followed the rules and a good solid collection of candidates has emerged.

They have been thus far vetted, and it will be interesting to see how each of the search committee members rank or choose them. The process should be closed tight at this point, and the parish allowed to get on with its business of selecting someone who can indeed take charge of the Recreation Department and provide the level of service to which Terrebonne Parish residents are entitled.

Thus far we see ample reason to predict a happy ending.