Leadership Tangi studies local healthcare
By: Alicia Fussell, Sarah Mitchell and Robbie van Mullem
Leadership Tangipahoa met for the first time in three months due to CoVid-19 on Wednesday, June 3rd. Like the rest of the world, things had changed. Our group was smaller than normal. That could be due to conflicting schedules, social distancing or working from home. The day was not mandatory, like all others, for the completion of our course. We no longer rode buses together to our many sites. On this day, we gathered at the Florida Parishes Event Center in Amite, and our speakers came to us for the most part. We were seated with appropriate spacing, and masks were issued at the door. Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation provided breakfast and lunch, and we sat three to a table. It was the new norm, but what had not changed, was our camaraderie and genuine desire to learn more about our amazing parish.
Nick Gagliano, group facilitator, started the day with an open discussion about the pandemic and how it affected each of our specific areas. From real estate and construction to parish government, health care and the school system and every business in between, we spoke candidly about the impact COVID-19 had on our employees, our communities and our bottom lines. We learned how resilient our classmates are and how our leadership is helping to create strategies post COVID-19 that include online platforms and virtual programs.
Michele K. Sutton, President/CEO of North Oaks Health System, spoke to the group about the health system’s response to COVID-19. She attributed teamwork, flexibility and effective communication as the leadership skills most utilized during this time. Daily team meetings and calls began early in March with updates on patient volume, supplies and infection prevention. Taking care of our patients, our employees and our community were at the forefront of every decision and conversation. Ms. Sutton stated that daily coordination with parish government also aided in the efforts to flatten the curve. She could not thank our community heroes enough for the unbelievable support given to our health care heroes.
Dr. Robert Peltier, Chief Medical Officer for North Oaks Health System and local subject matter expert on COVID-19, accompanied Ms. Sutton and spoke to the class. An internal medicine physician and travel medicine specialist, he started to closely monitor COVID-19 during the initial outbreak in China last December and began efforts to fine-tune the health system and Tangipahoa Parish’s emergency preparedness plans. In January, Dr. Peltier began educating community and business leaders on the rapidly evolving situation and preventative measures to take through a series of interviews, video updates, lectures and presentations.
Adapting quickly was also paramount in fighting this virus. North Oaks set up one of the first drive-through testing sites in the state as well as a separate ER area for symptomatic patients. Dr. Peltier also had a weekly call with the medical staff to update them on governmental mandates, the latest treatments and any policy revisions. From a leadership perspective, Dr. Peltier emphasized to the class the importance of transparency and over-communicating during a crisis. What is true today, may not be true tomorrow, but sharing that new information in a timely manner is the key.
As the state begins phased efforts to reopen, the North Oaks team will continue to communicate their efforts to keep patients, employees and the community safe as well as consulting with business leaders on how to protect their employees and customers.
Next, Chance Enmon, President and Chief Operating Office with Jani-King Gulf Coast Region spoke to our group. Chance told us about the 30 year history of Jani-King and how it has grown to over 500 franchise owners. He spoke to us about the impact that COVID-19 has had on the cleaning industry and gave our class as quick lesson on the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Jani-King’s new corporate offices will be located in Ponchatoula. Chance said the decision to build in Ponchatoula was easy because Ponchatoula is where he was raised and where he lives.
After lunch we heard from Secretary Don Pierson with Louisiana Economic Development. Mr. Pierson was appointed to his position by Governor John Bel Edwards in January 2016. Mr. Pierson’s has a long and impressive resume including graduating from United States Military Academy at West Point. Mr. Pierson spoke to the group about leadership.
Mr. Pierson gave us a long list of the qualities that it takes to be a good leader with lots of experience to go along with that long list. Some of the key points Mr. Pierson spoke about that make a good leader is respect, awareness, going first, faith, vision, diversity, values and authenticity. A good leader must earn respect by being authentic, exhibiting good behavior and leading by example. Awareness, you must be dialed into what is going on around you. Go first, as a good leader you must be ready to embrace change and lead the way with those changes. We must always keep faith as part of our perspective. As a leader we must have a vision and we must be able to define and articulate that vision. We must embrace diversity as this is what brings different viewpoints. We must adopt and exhibit good values. Finally, as leaders we must be our authentic self.
Our next speaker of the day was Joey Lombardo of Southland Steel. We traveled to Southland Steel’s new location north of Amite. Southland Steel recently purchased the old steel mill.
Southland Steel Fabricators, Inc. is a family owned business with two locations in Greensburg and Amite, Louisiana. The Amite location is the newest addition that is currently under construction and is expected to be up and running early this winter.
Southland Steel Fabricators has been in operation since 1986 when Joey‘s father started the business in Greensburg. Today’s company provides a full range of excellent fabrication services and top-notch facilities to meet the unique needs of their customers. Their facilities allow them to handle large projects, and because of their location, they can service South Mississippi, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and the North Shore quite easily.
Owner, Joey Lombardo, is excited about the new galvanizing plant they are bringing to the northern part of Tangipahoa Parish. By the end of the year, Southland Steel Fabricators expects that their 60-acre facility in Amite will be close to full production capabilities. This means they will be bringing approximately 200 new jobs to the area initially, with an end goal of a total of 300 new jobs. The galvanizing plant boasts a dip tank of more than 58 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 10 feet deep, with more than 2,000,000 pounds of zinc for galvanizing large steel structures. One of the biggest challenges they are facing right now is getting experts here from Italy to assist with putting the plant together. After taking a tour, you get the feeling that with or without these Italian experts, Joey is going to get this up and running before the end of the year.
Joey is the second generation to own Southland Steel Fabricators after buying it from his father in 2015. Joey is a graduate of Oak Forest Academy, and he attended Southeastern Louisiana University.
Our last stop of the day was Bracy’s Nursery which is east of Amite. Bracy’s is a wholesale nursery whose market is garden centers, re-wholesalers and landscapers. Bracy’s Nursery began in 1986 as a small pick-your-own fruit farm. After hearing from some of his customers, Mr. Randy decided to also grow peach trees and sell them along with the fruit. So that is how Bracy’s nursery began. Mr. Bracy’s nursery began on last than an acre of land and now comprises over 240 acres. There are 135 employees of Bracy’s nursery between sales, office staff, drivers, supervisors and construction workers. Also, Bracy’s participate in the H2A Guest Worker Program and houses over 110 workers on the ground of the nursery.
Upon arriving at the nursery, we were met by Mr. Randy Bracy and several of his staff. We are taken on a bus tour of the grounds of the nursery. Mr. Bracy explained to us that most of the inventory that we saw on the grounds would not be good for next year and if it were not sold it would be thrown away. They are always rooting and planting preparing for the next years inventory. There are 15 wells and 6 ponds on the nursery and there is no runoff of water. We were able to the see 1000’s of rooting’s in a greenhouse that were all in preparation of next year’s inventory. The grounds of Bracy’s nursery were immaculate. Mr. Bracy and all his staff take great pride in their work and facilities. Our last stop of the day was a surprise. Mr. Bracy allowed us to tour his vault which houses his massive collection of scotch. It was a nice way to end our day and our last class of the year.
Although COVID-19 prevented us from attending 3 of our monthly classes, the Board put together a fantastic last class. We would like to thank them for making sure we were able to meet one last time to end our year.
We would also like to thank Tangipahoa Parish Economic Development Director Ginger Cangelosi for helping to coordinate the day. A huge thank you to Michelle Sutton, Dr. Peliter, Chance Enmon and Secretary Pierson for taking time out of their busy schedules to come speak to us and Joey Lombardo and Randy Bracy for giving us a tour of their facilities. Also, our student sponsors, Gary Stanga, Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court, North Oaks Health System and 3 Sided Media. Tangipahoa Parish is a great place to live!!!
Alicia Fussell, Sarah Mitchell and Robbie van Mullem
Alicia Fussell is the Chief Deputy of the Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court. Alicia has been with the Clerk’s Office for 22 years and was appointed Chief Deputy by Gary Stanga. Alicia is a lifelong resident of Tangipahoa Parish and resides in Kentwood with her husband Chad and children Morgan and Alana. Alicia attended Southeastern Louisiana University and graduated for LSU Paralegal Studies Program.
Sarah Mitchell has worked for North Oaks Health System for more than 20 years serving in both clinical and leadership roles. Her current responsibilities as the Acute Surgical Service Line Leader include coordinating, developing and implementing system-wide strategic plans to improve the financial, operational and quality outcomes of the surgical services product line. Sarah grew up in Ponchatoula and still calls Tangipahoa home. She is active in the community and believes that helping others makes our parish stronger and more dynamic.
Robbie van Mullem is the President of 3 Sided Media, a company that develops websites and manages social media for hundreds of veterinary practices and businesses throughout the United States. While serving in the U.S. Naval Reserves, he received his Bachelor of Science from Southeastern Louisiana University. A graduate from Oak Forest Academy, Robbie was raised in the Amite, Louisiana area where he currently resides with his wife and two children.