Interview with Secretary of State Jay Dardenne (Part II)

July 11, 2007

LC: “You’re getting ready to run for re-election this year, why should the people of Louisiana re-elect you?”
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JD: “I’ve been in office in office since November of 2006, which is a relatively a short period of time. By the time the election rolls around it will be almost one year. It’ll be a couple of months short, a month or so, short of a year. During the time that I have been in office I tried to be very aggressive and innovative in dealing with all aspects of my office. I’ll give you some examples, we’ve saved several hundred thousands of dollars of taxpayers money by consolidating some positions that existed in not filling them, so that there are a number of relatively high paying positions that could have been filled in my administration that I have chosen not to fill because I consolidated some positions to try and save some money.

“…there are a number of relatively high paying positions that could have been filled in my administration that I have chosen not to fill because I consolidated some positions to try and save some money.”

“We have eliminated admission fees at all museums that are under my jurisdiction. In addition to elections, I oversee operations of fourteen different museums. We eliminated admission fees because I think people pay tax dollars in Louisiana to support these museums. I want to encourage Louisianians and visitors to our state to visit those museums and one way to do that is to make them free. Since we’ve done that, in fact, I just got some information this week, the attendance has spiked at three museums where we discontinued admission fees, which I was delighted to see. That tells me that, now that the museums are free more people are taking advantage of the opportunity to view those treasures that are in the museums and I think that has been a very positive step.

“I have been very aggressive in the legislature this year in trying to pass some laws that I thought were appropriate, including adding an extra day of early voting, so that this fall you will be able to vote early on two Saturdays as well as the Monday through Friday in between. I think early voting is the trend of the future, I think this gives people an opportunity to participate in the process when they want to, rather then simply wait until election day. I also very involved in securing a pay raise for voting commissioners, long overdue, it’s been almost fifteen years since we provided an increase in pay for voting commissioners and that will take effect immediately. I hope that’s going to help us recruit more people to be election day poll commissioners. We have a dramatic shortage in this state and I wanted to make it one of my primary missions to obtain a pay raise for those people to try to make it appropriate the number of people we have working the polls and we were successful in accomplishing that.

(Article continues below)

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“We’ve also created two new websites that link to our Secretary of State website and soon to be unveiled, the latter being a portal for new businesses in Louisiana to access information about government, about permits, about taxes, and I’m real excited about that.”

“We’ve made a number of other minor changes in the legislature to the overall election process that I think are appropriate, that I think are good. I’ve tried to be a champion for Louisiana history and Louisiana culture in this role because I am the keeper of the archives, and the keeper of the great seal of the State of Louisiana and the overseer of a number of these museums. I think it’s my role to be a champion of Louisiana history and culture that’s something I’m very interested in so I’m using this opportunity that I have to speak all over the state about our museum system and about Louisiana history. I have a real interest in that and I bring that quality to the job, I think it’s an appropriate qualification for being the Secretary of State.

“I’ve also been very aggressive in trying to raise public awareness of the litter problem in Louisiana. That’s not part of my job description but I believe it important to promote awareness of this problem and encourage people to pick up litter and not trash the state.

“We’ve also created two new websites that link to our Secretary of State website and soon to be unveiled, the latter being a portal for new businesses in Louisiana to access information about government, about permits, about taxes, and I’m real excited about that. I’ve hired Steve Windum, who used to be with the Department of Economic Development, to coordinate this new program that’s a revision of an older program called the “First Stop Shop” that I want to take to another level in this department. I’ve been very involved in a lot of different areas of responsibility in this office and I take a lot of pride in the fact that the people have entrusted this office to me and hope they’ll see fit to elect me to the full four year term.”

LC: “Louisiana’s very rich in history, I’ve really learned to enjoy Louisiana’s history in the time that I’ve been here. What is your favorite part of Louisiana’s history?”

JD: “Well, from a historical standpoint, there are a lot of different aspects of it that interests me. I think going back to the origin of our state, the Louisiana Purchase itself is a fascinating story, how that happened, and why it happened. It is really the lynchpins of Louisiana being where it is and relative to other states in the nation and why it is so significant, geographically and otherwise, and what happened when the purchase took place.

“I’m also extremely interested in 20th century Louisiana politics and the influence that the Long family has had throughout Louisiana politics and how the reign of Huey Long was so profound in effecting Louisiana, for the good and the bad. It was certainly a heavy dose of both during his administration, the time he was in control. I find that to be a very fascinating look into why Louisiana is the way it is.

“From an overall standpoint and I do a presentation called “Why Louisiana Ain’t Mississippi”, it’s a two and half hour powerpoint explanation of Louisiana’s culture, demography, history, literature and what have you, a kind of fun, fast capsule look at Louisiana. One of the things I talk about in that presentation is that we stand alone in all the fifty states because of our unique demographic mix. We have the tremendous European culture in Louisiana that does not exist in the other Southern states or, any other state for that matter, that prevents us from being a very routine state of White Anglos Saxon Protestants and African Americans. We got a whole other dimension French, Spanish, Creole, Italian, German and every other European ethnic group that is in the gumbo that is Louisiana, and that sets us apart. That’s something that really fascinates me.”

LC: “Secretary Dardenne, I want to thank you for your time and I want to wish you good luck on your election.”

JD: “Thank you Jeff.”

Schools see leadership shortage

The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) February 19, 2009 | John Laidler GLOBE NORTH 1 / REGION While school districts across the region grapple with budget issues, some are facing the additional challenge of finding new leadership.

Superintendents Charles Chaurette of Amesbury and Claire Sheff Kohn of the Masconomet Regional School District are retiring at the end of the school year. Swampscott Superintendent Matthew Malone, meanwhile, has announced he will not be seeking a renewal of his contract when it expires June 30, 2010. web site princeton regional schools

Those pending departures follow a changing of the guard in the Lynn schools last month, when Nicholas P. Kostan retired as superintendent and Deputy Superintendent Catherine Latham was selected to replace him.

The Amesbury School Committee moved quickly to choose Chaurette’s successor. Opting to forgo a search, the committee on Feb. 3 appointed David Jack, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and human resources. The appointment, effective July 1, is subject to reaching contract terms, according to committee member Debra Bibeau, who was not present at the Feb. 3 meeting but supported the choice.

The panel concluded it made no sense to spend money on a search “when we have a very qualified, competent person” for the job, Bibeau said. In addition to the costs, the appointment avoids “any anxiety that goes with leadership change,” she said, noting the integral role Jack has played in budgeting and personnel in his four years with the district.

Bibeau, who is president of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, also noted the difficulty districts face in finding strong superintendent candidates at a time when there are 53 openings statewide and a limited pool of applicants. She said 40 percent of districts recently choosing superintendents selected internal candidates.

Prior to his current job, Jack, 54, spent four years as business administrator for the Lincoln schools and 16 years as assistant superintendent for finance in Derry, N.H., where he resides.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Jack said. “The townspeople in Amesbury since I’ve come there have been wonderful. … Our School Committee has been very supportive.” Regarding the district’s fiscal challenges, he said: “I look at it as an opportunity. We are going to do our best to continue in the direction we’ve been going and to work hard till we see a better time. … From a financial standpoint, we have to find a way to make it work on behalf of our students, who we represent.” Chaurette, who started as Amesbury’s superintendent on July 1, 2004, after many years as an administrator in the Salem schools, cited the fiscal climate as a reason for his decision to retire. go to site princeton regional schools

“If the economy was still in relatively good shape, I would not even be considering retiring this year,” he said. But given his expectation that he would spend the next several years “cutting staff and programs we fought really hard to be able to build, I felt that the option of retirement for me was really a better option.” Kohn has headed the Masconomet school district, which serves students in grades 7 through 12 from Boxford, Middleton, and Topsfield, since August 2004. Before that, she had superintendent posts in the Princeton Regional Schools in Lawrence Township, N.J., and in Hull.

“The nature of our jobs and the fact that we have been commuting for eight years means we don’t get to see one another often enough. …

“There are impending retirements among administrators within the next one to two years, and it would not be good for the district if we were to go out together. It’s also beneficial if a new superintendent can pick his/her own team.” The Masconomet Regional School Committee has initiated the process of selecting Kohn’s replacement. According to committee vice chairwoman Laura Powers, the panel recently selected the New England School Development Council to serve as its search consultant. The goal is to have a new superintendent by Aug. 1.

Malone became Swampscott’s school chief on July 1, 2005, after having served as an administrator in the San Diego public schools and as a high school headmaster in the Boston public schools.

Malone, who aspires to be an urban school superintendent, was the runner-up candidate in school superintendent searches in Springfield last May and in Worcester in December.

Swampscott School Committee chairman David P. Whelan, who is not seeking reelection this spring, said he anticipates the search process for a new superintendent will get underway next fall.

John Laidler


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