Governor-Elect John ‘Bel’ Edwards announced eight new leaders for his administration on Wednesday.
Colonel Michael Edmonson will continue as Commander of Louisiana State Police. Former Congressman Charlie Melancon will serve as the Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. State Representative Karen St. Germain, of Plaquemine, will head the Office of Motor Vehicles.
Edwards also named newly-minted PhD, Shawn Wilson, as the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development. Wilson is currently the Chief of Staff at DOTD.
The Governor-Elect says alleviating the traffic jam of funding for that department is crucial. “We’re going to make sure that the Transportation Trust Fund is used for highways, bridges and ports. We’re going to allocate an additional twenty-five percent of Capital Outlay budget to transportation projects. That’s another $75 million each year. And immediately, we’ll double our investment into the Port Priority Program from $20 million to $40 million a year,” says Edwards, reiterating his campaign promise.
Wilson knows he’ll be dealing with a $12 billion backlog of unfunded projects and isn’t intimidated, saying “you can eat an elephant, you just can’t eat it all at one sitting."
He says it’s about spending the available money efficiently, effectively and quickly. “If we invest in a project that’s seven years down the road, that does nothing for our citizens today,” Wilson explains.
Just last week, Congress approved the first comprehensive highway bill in several years, so both Edwards and Wilson expect the Feds to partner in reducing the backlog. Wilson added, “we’re going to be a critical factor for the state and nation to move goods across this country. So there are some projects you’ll be hearing about, not just here in Baton Rouge, but I-49, getting to the airport in New Orleans, along I-12, I-20.”
Edwards and his transition teams are weeding through the thousands of applications for job openings in the new administration and promise additional announcements soon. "All I can say is 'stay tuned, we have more coming,'” says the Governor-Elect.
Also announced Wednesday, Major General Glenn Curtis will serve as the Adjutant General for the Louisiana National Guard. Joey Strickland will lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development will be Don Pierson. Juana Marine-Lombard will head the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.