Sunday, March 1, 2009

‘A Cultural Change’

Posted By on Sun, Mar 1, 2009 at 4:28 PM

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand is keeping one of his most important campaign promises — promoting deputies based on some clearly defined criteria rather than on the whim of immediate supervisors. The Times-Picayune accurately described Normand’s new policy as “a sharp break with his predecessor, Harry Lee.”

 

 

Lee was enormously popular among Jefferson’s voters, but less so behind the scenes with  his deputies, some of whom complained over the years of favoritism, cronyism, etc.

 

Ironically, Normand himself represented “a sharp break” from that notion throughout his career as Lee’s top assistant: he was universally regarded as no-nonsense, honest, and thoroughly professional. Even Lee’s critics conceded that he put a good man in charge of the office. That man is now the sheriff, having won his first election contest with 91 percent of the vote — a high-water mark the ever-popular Lee never even reached.

 

Normand also has surpassed Lee on another political front: He has coattails. In several recent elections, his endorsement helped elect or re-elect candidates facing very difficult opponents. The biggest examples include U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who got her biggest vote ever in Jefferson Parish thanks in large measure to Normand’s support, and new District Judge Ellen Kovach, who defeated incumbent Martha Sassone in a bitter contest.

 

Politically, Normand will be tested again on April 4. He and many other Jefferson politicos are supporting Lee’s daughter, forensic accountant Cindy Lee-Sheng, for parish council against state Sen. Julie Quinn, school board member Martin Marino, and businessman Kelly Daniels.

 

Regarding the new promotions protocols, Normand has instituted a five-part process that includes a written test, a “live skills” test, a performance review, and a point system that rewards college educations and community volunteerism. “We’ll get a more-educated, more-qualified and more-engaged employee,” Normand told the T-P. “This process is not easy.”

 

At a time when crime is spilling over from New Orleans into Jefferson, particularly the West Bank, this represents a welcome change — “a cultural change,” Normand says — in a sheriff’s office that’s going to find that fighting crime is only going get more difficult.

 

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