Von Jennings: Alexandria needs effective leadership to move forward

By Sherri L. Jackson
The Light/EverythingCenla

It’s no secret that Von Jennings is seeking to take Mayor Jacques Roy’s seat in October.

And she said she plans to do so by proving that she has the necessary leadership skills to get the job done.

“We need effective leadership that listens to the will of the people,” Jennings told The Light in a one-on-one interview. “The city needs leaders who will develop plans of action and follow through with input from residents. Many have the technical skills to do the job, but lacks leadership skills needed to move the city forward.”

“A good leader has goals to accomplish, and the behavior is based on those goals,” she said.

Though mulling over the decision whether or not to seek the city’s highest office since November 2009, after careful consideration and several conversations with community and business organizations, Jennings officially made her intentions known Tuesday, March 30, when she opened her campaign headquarters at 1012 Third St., across from Alexandria City Hall.

About 40 people attended the event to hear Jennings’ announcement. She is the first to officially announce candidacy.

Jennings said she hopes to bring to her native city the type of leadership she believes is lacking in Alexandria City Hall.

“We need leadership that is open to collaboration with others. I’m positive we can do a better job,” she said. “I have the ability to partner, to collaborate and the willingness to listen the move on and to develop plans of action that can be implemented.”

Jennings worked as an assistant to Mayor Jacques Roy in charge of the city’s AFEAT, which stands for Alexandria Fairness, Equality, Accessibility and Teamwork, a business program which was designed to bring in help minority and emerging business do business with the city. She was terminated in January 2009.

Jennings is a 1991 graduate of Peabody Magnet High School. She has bachelor’s degrees in political science and public administration from Grambling State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Southern University. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in public policy.

“I want everyone to appreciate that I am a candidate who will represent all of the citizens of Alexandria. I am willing to work with everyone. We have to understand that there are more issues that we have in common than those that are different,” she said.”

Jennings said she sees the city’s priorities as conservative financial planning, aggressive

economic development, work force development, youth development, drainage and flooding,

affordable utilities and infrastructure projects that will promote economic viability.

“The immediate needs are to have definite financial plans. The city is looking at a deficit. We need more revenue streams,” she said.

Meanwhile, Jennings said the city in its current state needs her leadership skills, which along with experience, make her the “excellent choice” to be the city’s leader.

“Much of my experience and skills are directly tied to those serving as mayor of any leader in a corporation,” she said.

Jennings said as she operates a grassroots campaign she looks forward to meeting all citizens “at their door.”

Council appoints one of the mayor’s hires, delays another

By Eugene Sutherland
The Light

The Alexandria City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday, Aug. 26, to confirm one staff appointment of Mayor Jacques Roy while delaying another.

Council members to a man said there was no rancor between themselves and Roy regarding the potential hires. The only question, they said, was whether the city would get the “bang for its buck” from the appointments, given the $80,000 salary that would come with their roles.

Up for vote were the appointments of Greg Foster as director of human resources and Jannease Seastrunk as director of community services. Seastrunk, the longtime head of the non-profit Shepherd Center, was approved with no apparent hesitation. Council members said they were satisfied of Seastrunk’s qualifications through her interaction with people in her former capacity and that the duties of the position itself justify the salary.

Foster’s appointment, however, was met with concern. Not so much regarding his qualifications as much as whether the position justified the financial commitment to the position and whether it duplicated some services of already existing positions within City Hall.

The two appointments had previously been delayed twice. There is no timetable on how long the current delay might be resolved.

In related news, former community services director Lisa Harris was appointed as chief of policy and compliance, as per Roy’s recommendation.

Heading into the meeting, council members Charles Fowler and Charles F. Smith Jr. were both on record as supporting both hires. Member Louis Marshall did not. Member Roosevelt L. Johnson took what he called a “wait-and-see” approach. Member Harry Silver turned the matter back to Roy, calling it a “moot point.”

“We want to make sure we make the decision that is right financially and economically,” Johnson said. “We just needed to make sure we’re all on the same page here. There was no arguing or anything like that. This is about doing what’s best for the city.”
There had been concerns the positions duplicated already existing jobs within City Hall, thus leading to irresponsible spending. Foster already draws an annual salary of $80,000 from the city.

“What I look at is that Jannease Seastrunk has a record of dealing with people in the community,” Smith said. “With her community service work, she meets every qualification. What we need to do now is figure out the need for a human resources director, what it involves and whether the position will mix with others.”

Marshall said that among the sticking points regarding the human resources position is that the position gives more leeway to potential hires who happen to have criminal or other negative backgrounds. The city has had issues meeting the number of hires needed because of what he feels to be harsh standards.

“We have to give people a break,” Marshall said. “Our Judeo-Christian society believes in giving people a second chance. But as much as anything, you’re talking about an $80,000 salary. That’s a lot of money, especially at a time when people are having trouble just paying energy bills.”

Foster would replace Joe Page, who had been paid $60,000 to perform the duties of the position.

Roy could not be reached for comment after the meeting.

Ed Larvadain III to officially announce District 1 candidacy

Ed Larvadain III plans to announce his candidacy for the District 1 Council seat for which Louis Marshall is the incumbent.

The announcement will be made at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the Bolton Avenue Community Center, 315 Bolton Ave.

Alexandria (La.) mayor and council fighting again

Read how the Alexandria City Council is giving the mayor hell about his hiring practices. Go to Page 3.

Aug. 15, 2008, Pages 1-8

Aug. 15, 2008, Pages 9-16

Mary Landrieu speaking on urban planning and smart growth


U. S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was the keynote speaker at a July 2 conference in Alexandria, Louisiana.

The conference focused on smart growth and urban planning. Hear what she has to say about how Louisiana can effectively map out its growth.