I. In Focus This Week
First Person Singular: Angie Rogers
Reflecting on the first post-Katrina election in Orleans Parish
Louisiana Commissioner of Elections
April 22, 2006, almost eight months exactly after Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, 2005; we conducted the first election in Orleans Parish for all local offices such as Mayor, Sheriff and Councilman, to name a few.
And it was the hardest, yet most rewarding, work and accomplishment of my legal/elections career over the past 27 years.
But as the old saying goes, there is no “I” in “Team” and although I was tasked with the duty of organizing and administering the election as the Commissioner of Elections, the team that we put together at the Secretary of State’s office was the reason behind our success!
Secretary of State at the time, Al Ater, suggested we start a “war room” where we could meet and brainstorm and bring in staff to delegate and assist. He reminded us that we had to make decisions and if we made 10 decisions, maybe one would not be the best, but it had to be done.
“Analysis paralysis” was one of his mottos and time was not on our side to delay decision-making.
We put together an emergency election plan and swiftly passed it through our legislature in a special session and we began our work in the war room planning and making decisions.
I reflect back today and will never forget the images of destruction and despair of 10 years ago, but I will also never forget the war room of teamwork, camaraderie, sweat and tears that we all shared in putting together and implementing the emergency plan, strategizing and learning great lessons along the way, not necessarily always about elections but about life and all the things that we normally take for granted.
Eight months following the hurricane and we imported almost everything into the City of New Orleans – water, food, flashlights, pens, computers, lunch boxes, ice chests, over 1,000 signs, sand bags, fax machines, copiers, disposable trash cans, fans, mini air-conditioning units, buses and vans, on-call drivers, lights, extension cords, cables, tables, chairs, portable restrooms, cell phones, two-way radios, maps to polling locations, security officers, voting machine technicians from around the state, polling place commissioners from neighboring parishes, and over 22,000 early voting ballots from around the state.
Eight months and we were navigating through a city of darkness but through a city of great resolve and determination to come back and to come back stronger and better than ever and we got to play a part in that by allowing the voters of New Orleans to express their choice in the people that would lead them home.
It wasn’t just about conducting the election; it was about providing hope and an opportunity and being able to be a part of it all!
Editor’s Note: Ten years ago, two friends from D.C. wanted to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina so they headed to St. Bernard Parish and ended up creating the St. Bernard Project which to-date has built almost 900 homes in Louisiana, Joplin, Missouri and parts of New York and New Jersey affected by Superstorm Sandy. There are many worthy organizations still hard at work on the Gulf Coast, but if you are looking for a way to give back either by volunteering or donating, please consider the St. Bernard Project.
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