Planning Commission names director

The Executive Committee of the Capital Region Planning Commission recommended Thursday accepting the resignation of former Executive Director Huey Dugas, appointing an interim replacement and forming a committee to find a replacement.

None of the seven-member committee’s votes are binding on the full commission, but each will go to the full commission as a recommendation. Each vote was unanimous.

Two members — Ray Terral and Ory Poret — did not attend.

East Baton Rouge Mayor- President Kip Holden said after the meeting that discussions about who would succeed Dugas in heading the CRPC had been going on “for a while.”

Holden said “the abrupt manner” of the resignation surprised him.

“There was some question of confidence” in Dugas, he said.

West Baton Rouge Parish President Riley L. Berthelot Jr., who serves as the CRPC’s vice chairman, said some members of the committee had talked to Dugas about a succession plan.

“I was hoping we could work on a transition of six months or a year, to use Huey’s institutional knowledge,” Berthelot said. “We need to get our MPO and the CRPC up to the next level.”

Holden and Berthelot said they have not talked with Dugas since his retirement. An email sent to Dugas went unanswered.

The CRPC, made up of officials from 11 parishes and 38 municipalities, serves as Baton Rouge’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, which the metro area is required to have to receive federal highway funds and work on regional transportation planning.

Holden said members of the CRPC wanted to see the organization become more proactive and aggressive in pursuing funding for regional transportation projects.

“There has been a move to see how we could get more done at the MPO,” Holden said. “We went to New Orleans and saw how they do it.”

While the commission searches for a new executive director, the committee voted to elevate R.J. Goebel, the commission’s director of planning, to the post on an interim basis.

Goebel was on vacation and could not be reached for comment, Berthelot said.

The committee also voted to recommend that a search committee be created that would include as members parish presidents, a representative from the executive committee, a representative from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the Federal Highway Administration and Walter Brooks, executive director of the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission.

Holden said that since the search committee had not been officially appointed, it would be premature for him to speak on how he hoped the search would proceed.

Dugas emailed a one-line resignation letter Tuesday to Berthelot.

“This letter serves as my notice of retirement effective today Tuesday, January 22, 2013,” the letter said.

The full commission will take up the executive committee’s recommendations Monday at 5:30 p.m. during the regular meeting at the Baker Municipal Building.