Chief of Staff

Written by Aaron Williams on .

I love the city of Port Allen.

So much so, that I came very close to tossing my title of newspaper editor out the window and speaking at the last Port Allen City Council meeting.

But for reasons unknown to even me, I refrained.

As a student of journalism, I was taught to allow a story to transpire and simply report the details – I was taught to stay out of the way of the story, and whatever the outcome, good or bad, do the job of telling what happened or what is happening.

But I always thought that I wouldn’t be able to allow suffering to go on if I could help in some way. I imagined that if a terrible accident happened and I had my camera in hand, that I would forget about taking an award-winning photograph and do my part as a decent human being and helping whomever might be in need.

And I still believe that I would be selfless in a situation where I might be able to help a person or people in need – I think I just felt like in the case of Port Allen’s City Hall, I don’t know if I could have really helped the situation.

If you disagree, and think that my speaking at a meeting could help progress matters enough that the mayor, council and residents can agree to begin moving the city forward, I’d be more than happy to do so.

With that said, I’m going to attempt to express some of my thoughts regarding the matters at hand - mainly the position of the mayor’s chief of staff, as a few of the resident’s questions during the P.A. committee meeting last Wednesday regarding the position went unanswered.

I have been blessed with an uncanny ability to see things from many perspectives and I hope that my words are taken in the spirit that I intend them – with a love for the city and an unending respect for the people.

I want to address not only the mayor, but also the council and the city’s residence. I pray that my comments will be received in the manner in which I hope to purvey. Nothing I say is meant to be a personal attack – simply my opinion on the matters at hand.

Mayor Slaughter, I hope that you are able to see things from the perspective of the citizens, and vise-versa. And I’m praying that my words will help to accomplish just that. I have sat down and spoken with you before and after the election and I understand that you believe that you are doing what is within your legal right as mayor to attempt to move the city forward; and I respect and appreciate that. You have researched the law before each move you make and believe that nothing you have done is technically against the law.

But please understand that the thought process of doing something because it’s not technically wrong will get you in a lot of hot water with the citizens and a lot of difficult situations in life.

People don’t look at it as though you didn’t do anything wrong, technically. They see the outward appearance of your going against the council’s wishes and doing whatever you desire and hiring a person that happens to be your brother-in-law.

The Bible tells us to flee the appearance of evil – it’s not about the actual act of evildoing, but just the appearance that a follower of Christ must avoid.

I’m in no way calling what you’ve done “evil,” but many see your actions of late as wrong.

Many of the moves you have made have been alienating to the citizens of city. When former mayor Roger Bergeron hired Mr. Adrian Genre, people were up in arms, crying foul, accusing him of nepotism because the two were alleged close friends – how much more did you think people were going to react when you hired your brother-in-law as the Chief of Staff?

Now, Mr. Genre has, as far as I know, done an outstanding and stand-up job as the city’s CAO in his tenure. And I will not talk about his past, because I’ve had multiple conversations with him and know him to be a good man and is worthy of the utmost respect.

And just as I will not bring up Mr. Genre’s past, I will not bring up Mr. Ralph Slaughter’s past.

I understand that Mr. Slaughter has an exemplary resumé and may actually be able to help the city through the financial dismay we are in.

I think that Mayor Slaughter fully believes that, brother-in-law or not, the city needs help financially and that Mr. Slaughter is a top candidate, whom she trusts, for the job. And right now, I believe, Mayor Slaughter’s primary concern is trust.

Many people are, understandably, angered by the appointment of Mr. Slaughter as Chief of Staff – but many in their arguments are angered because of the reported salary for the position. To that I will argue, simply, that Mr. Slaughter has agreed to help the city with its financial woes pro-bono. Meaning the city will not owe him a dime, yet he is willing to help the city still.

As underhanded as some may believe this is, citizens and council members alike, it is something that you could possibly consider simply allowing to happen and not fighting the matter tooth and nail – it’s a strong possibility that it could, in fact, help the city to progress.

Many are arguing that the duties of mayor and the duties of the mayor’s chief of staff are so similar that they don’t see a point in the hiring of the chief of staff. Again, I completely understand the argument, but I ask that you think of one thing:

If you were a master tax adjuster and you got audited by the IRS, if another tax adjuster whom you trusted offered to help you with your taxes during the audit, would you not accept that help?

If you were a great lawyer and were being sued; yes, you could handle the case yourself; but if another great lawyer, whom you trusted, offered assistance with your case pro-bono, would you not allow him/her to help?

Maybe the city doesn’t need a Chief of Staff, but I just want everybody to understand one another so that the city that you all live in and love, that I live in and love, can begin to take strides forward and not stay stagnant or even digress.

I’m not saying that I agree with one side more than the other. I’m not saying that I think we should do one thing over another. I’m just saying that we should all do our best to try and understand one another, understand the issue from every angle, and whether you agree or you agree to disagree, allow the mayor and council to do their job in helping the city move past this issue and work towards the goal of becoming as great a city as we all know it can be.

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