Gonzales board explores roles

The newly seated Gonzales City Council, during its first official action on Friday, discussed the types of roles open to members as well as the various council committees on which they could serve.

Councilman Gary Lacombe, attending his first council session, requested Friday’s special meeting. He hoped the discussion would help council members “play to our strengths” and utilize their “wealth of knowledge.”

“What I wanted to do was gauge some interest so we could have some constructive dialogue,” Lacombe said.

The council settled on recommendations for its two-member committees — the Engineering, Insurance, Public Safety and Ordinance Review panels — as well as recommendations for commissioners to focus on certain areas of the city activities and operations such as tourism, recreation, utilities, sanitation, streets and drainage.

Councilman Terence Irvin said the committee memberships and commissioner positions enable council members to take on more active roles in certain aspects of city operations and activities.

“What these titles do and what these committees do is get us more involved,” he said.

Another new council member, Tim Vessel, said he thought Friday’s discussion “brought a lot of harmony on the council.”

Mayor Barney Arceneaux, however, reminded council members that under the Lawrason Act, the authority to make appointments in city government ultimately lies with the mayor. The only position the council can fill, he said, is the office of mayor pro tem.

Attempts to reach officials from the Louisiana Municipal Association on Friday afternoon for clarification on the issue were unsuccessful.

The council did not select a mayor pro tem, instead delaying any vote on that issue until its next meeting on Jan. 14. However, three of the five council members expressed an interest in the position.

Kenny Matassa and Irvin, who both have served on the council for 16 years, said they would like to fill the position, as did Vessel. The three candidates were given two minutes each to inform their fellow council members of their qualifications for the post.

City attorney Ryland Percy said the candidates must be nominated and then seconded in order to be eligible for the position. If more than one council member is nominated, the council must vote to fill the position.

Lacombe said his greatest hope for Friday’s meeting was for the two new council members and three holdovers to get on the same page and help push the city forward during the approaching budget-making process. That’s an issue that Finance Director Clay Stafford said would be addressed soon.

“In about a month, get ready to roll up your sleeves and work on next year’s budget,” Stafford said.