Rec search committee’s choices should stand

By this time next week, Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove will likely have announced his choice for a new director of the Terrebonne Parish Recreation Department.

The process has been arduous, particularly in terms of the work done by the Dove-appointed search committee, whose members pored over applications and resumes, selecting eleven candidates from nearly three times that number, and then conducting interviews with them.

Committee members, as requested, submitted three names to Dove for consideration, in their opinion the cream of the applying crop. The process, as outlined at its start, was designed for the Parish President to make his final choice from those three. He also was not bound by law or custom to go with the committee choices.

As members of the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce have pointed out in public presentations, the role of recreation fashioned through the government is increasingly important not only for the health and well-being of residents, but for economic vitality of the parish and the region. Solid athletic programs are a selling point for industries that may call Terrebonne home. This is particularly important as we recover from a crippling economic downturn, a situation that demands industrial diversity.

These are some of the reasons why this selection is crucial. As parish government continues its investigations of finance and other factors attendant to TPR and the various independent recreation districts, having a competent administrator well-schooled in all phases of captaining a crucial agency working with a budget in excess of $2 million is a necessity.

The process is not without controversy, however. The final three choices of its members, as reported in this issue of The Times, represent a diverse field. Landon Tims is Bogalusa’s current director of parks and recreation. David McCormick has distinguished himself as a local high school football coach. DeMorrius Jones has a record built in Mississippi of administration and team management.

After reviewing resumes and in consideration of this specific position, we would suggest Tims as being the most qualified. Although he has never — according to his resume — composed a budget of his own, he is familiar with budgeting processes. Of greatest importance would be his stated experience of working with various local agencies in his jurisdiction. We can’t speak for the committee, whose members are not discussing the elements that went into their decision-making processes. But the inclusion of Tims in the top three shows that he was impressive enough, as were the other two.

But a funny thing happened on the way to rec district manager selection. Parish President Dove, through subordinates, prevailed on the committee after its work was done to interview a candidate of his choosing, boat company executive Roddy Lerille. To his credit, Lerille is familiar with aspects of recreation administration, having served on a Lafourche Parish recreation board. He also has a stellar history of volunteer coaching for various sports. For whatever reasons, Lerille did not make the first cut of eleven nor the second cut of three. But Dove wanted him in the mix anyhow.

To the credit of Dove and his administration, the proof of his early intervention regarding the process was verified by their complete and prompt response to a request for public records by The Times, which indicated clearly the timeline.

Granted, the documents were supplied because the law requires it. The blowback potential of such information could have easily resulted in easily-manufactured delays in an administration less transparent. The request was honored, and for that Dove and his staff deserve acknowledgement and praise.

The parish president’s ultimate authority in the selection process is unquestionable. The mere creation of the search committee was, in itself, refreshing and laudable. We cannot help, however, questioning whether Dove’s selection process over-ride was in some ways frustrating, if not downright insulting, to the committee members who worked so hard to male that process fair and effective. On paper, Lerille’s qualifications appear no more outstanding than those of other candidates who did not make the cuts. As indicated in some social media posts and text messages received by our staff, the instant elevation will be fodder for Dove’s critics and local conspiracy theorists.

Gordon Dove is an accomplished and savvy politician. We have no doubt that he would have weighed the consequences of intrusion. Whether that choice was in the best interests of the parish or of Dove himself is a question that can’t be answered just yet. But it certainly will have our continued attention.