Gayle Benson, Norman Francis and Walter Isaacson to serve as honorary co-chairs on Cantrell transition team



Gayle Benson, Norman Francis and Walter Isaacson will serves as honorary chairs on Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell's transition team as she prepares to take office in May.

Benson, wife of Saints and Pelicans (and Dixie) owner Tom Benson, joins Xavier University president Francis and Isaacson, former head of the Aspen Institute and editor of Time magazine, as well as a sitting member of the City Planning Commission.

Transition advisory board chairs include Turbosquid CEO Matt Wisdom and Kathleen Kennedy, dean of Xavier's college of pharmacy.

The board of advisors includes Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) founder Norris Henderson and Peacekeepers organizer Willie Muhammad; Propeller founder Andrea Chen; Iam Tucker with Integrated Logistics Support Inc.; Bonita Robertson with the Greater New Orleans Foundation; Advocacy Center's Vincenzo Pasquantonio; Broadmoor Improvement Association's Annamaria Villamarin-Lupin; attorney and former U.S. Senate candidate Caroline Fayard; Anne Milling with Women of the Storm; Dana Peterson with the Louisiana Department of Education; former Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David R.M. Williams; NewCorp president Vaughn Randolph Fauria; and real estate developer Matt Schwartz.

This is the first look into Cantrell's camp, four months before she takes office in May, and Cantrell and the committee haven't publicly laid out specifics; Cantrell anticipates her administration "hitting the ground running" May 7. The volunteer-led transition team takes on a formal board structure, headed by three well-known and politically powerful chairs, but Cantrell says she's prepared for a "bottom-up" approach to building her plan.

Cantrell says the team's focus is on "place and people" with "intentionality" — "that's what the Cantrell administration will be about." Its priorities include "equitable neighborhoods," job opportunities, and a criminal justice focus "not just on the needs of the New Orleans Police Department but the needs of the entire criminal justice system." In office, Cantrell says among her first priorities is include Sewerage & Water Board infrastructure and a search for a new executive director.

Next week, the team will announce committees, subcommittees, and the leadership within each, along with a transition plan and list of full transition staff. So far it includes spokesperson Karen Carvin Shachat and Cantrell's District B chief of staff John Pourciau  as well as former mayoral candidate Michael Bagneris and former deputy mayor Michelle Thomas, who resigned from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration in 2013.

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