Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell continued her transition to New Orleans’ highest office, announcing the members of a transition advisory team Wednesday (Jan. 10) but gave no indication of when she would make key appointments, including police chief and the new leader of the Sewerage & Water Board.

The most notable news to come out of Wednesday’s event at Xavier University was the announcement of members of Cantrell’s transition advisory committee, led by co-chairs Kathleen Kennedy, dean of Xavier’s College of Pharmacy, and Matt Wisdom, CEO of the New Orleans-based digital media company TurboSquid.

Honorary chairs of the transition: retired Xavier president Norman Francis; Gayle Benson, wife of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson; and Walter Isaacson, head of the Aspen Institute and former editor of Time magazine.

Wednesday’s announcement comes about two months after Cantrell, a sitting City Council member, was elected mayor. She said her transition team’s office was set up last week on Xavier’s campus. Cantrell described the committee as “focused on place and people.”

“That’s what our transition team will be about, but more importantly, that’s what the Cantrell administration will be about,” Cantrell said. She repeatedly used a phrase she repeated frequently during the campaign, saying that she will be a “bottom-up” leader.

The various committee members represent the heads of city organizations, social justice nonprofits and local businesses. They include: Norris Henderson, Voice of the Ex-Offender; Iam Tucker, Integrated Logistics Support; Dana Peterson, Louisiana Department of Education; Bonita Robertson, Greater New Orleans Foundation, Willie Muhammed, Peacekeepers; Andrea Chen, Propeller; attorney Caroline Fayard; Anne Milling, Women of the Storm; Vaughn Randolph Fauria, NewCorp executive director; former Judge David Williams, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal; Vincenzo Pasquantonio, Advocacy Center; and Annamaria Villamarin-Lupin, Broadmoor Improvement Association.

“I think you can see today they are not necessarily your usual suspects, there are probably some people here that you guys don’t know much about,” Carvin said. “I think she’s looking to have a very wide tent.”

Asked how the bottom-up charge applies to the committee’s interaction with the public, Carvin said, “that will be released with the transition plan.”

Until Wednesday, there had been few indications about where the transition team was headed: A staffer from Cantrell’s City Council office, John Pourciau, had been the only public appointment to lead the transition team, and last week, Cantrell named the title of the team: Forward Together New Orleans.

Carvin said Wednesday that Michael Bagneris, the former mayoral candidate who endorsed Cantrell in the runoff, is joining the transition’s staff, as is Michelle Thomas, a former staffer in Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration. Thomas resigned her post in the Landrieu administration after it her fiancee was arrested twice, once on drug charges and again on drugs and guns charges.

The New Orleans Advocate reported on Thomas’ involvement on Tuesday, and Cantrell defended her association with Thomas to the newspaper and said Thomas shouldn’t be subject to her reputation being impugned. The mayor-elect added that Thomas’ past associations had nothing to do with her professional life or the transition.

But Thomas’ appointment is likely to raise questions among political watchers, who have already become critical of Cantrell’s interactions with state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, who pleaded guilty to a money laundering charge in 2008. Cantrell maintains she has no ties with Shepherd, but he has shown up at two events Cantrell attended and sent her a speech he wrote for her that ultimately wasn’t delivered.

Cantrell has sought to portray her transition as seamless, but she is likely to come into office with significant challenges. She is facing a Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s investigation of her credit card spending while on the City Council, and Attorney Jeff Landry is trying to subpoena her personal financial records as part of a probe into the credit card spending.

Cantrell’s spending became a significant issue during the mayoral race after it was made public that she had reimbursed the city for more than $4,000 for expenses that she later determined were not part of the public duties of her office. Some reimbursements were for years-old spending.

Cantrell has hired an attorney to respond to the charges and has publicly maintained she did nothing wrong.

Asked whether she had a timeline to appoint a new chief administrative officer — the position that oversees budget and operations at City Hall — Cantrell only acknowledged that she would need to appoint someone ahead of her May 7 administration. Carvin, Cantrell’s spokeswoman, said goals and details would be announced next Tuesday in the transition plan.

Original article here.