Alberto Galan: SW La. resilient in ways I’ve never experienced

John Guidroz

Alberto Galan said his responsibilities as the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury’s assistant to the administrator vary from one day to the next. He can work with different departments, interact with state and federal agencies on certain projects or hear from the public on the challenges they’re facing.

Galan, who is approaching eight years with the Police Jury this October, said he enjoys the unique challenges associated with his job. 

“I’m fortunate to be in this role and to learn a lot from the leaders here at the Police Jury, our elected officials who represent the community, and other leaders in the community that can give me a lot of guidance on this as a career,” he said.

Galan is also the parish’s long-term disaster recovery coordinator. He said it’s a huge piece of the puzzle in helping the region fully rebound from Hurricane Laura’s devastating landfall last August. The Police Jury is expected to release a draft of the long-term recovery plan next month.

“We want to rebuild and invest in what’s good for our community so we end up better on the back end,” Galan said. “We also want to make sure we are protecting our assets for many years to come.”

Galan, who was in high school during Hurricane Rita’s 2005 landfall, said his perspective after Hurricane Laura was different.

“You can notice the damage to your home, but you’re also seeing it from the public administration side,” he said. “You’re helping people who are trying to navigate a complex system on an unprecedented scale. It creates a unique set of circumstances, also for parish employees.”

Running a large organization such as the Police Jury during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult, Galan said.

“The things we do can’t really be done remotely,” he said.

Years of working with parish officials and staff to overhaul drainage was a major accomplishment, Galan said. The Police Jury voted in March 2019 to consolidate the drainage boards from seven to two. Last November, voters approved tax rates for the two districts.

Last year’s hurricanes showed the willingness of Southwest Louisiana residents and organizations to take recovery into their own hands, Galan said.

“They are resilient in ways I’ve never experienced before,” he said. “No one seemed to put their head down and just stop. People picked up the pieces and just ran with it.”

During Hurricane Laura’s immediate aftermath, the multitude of trees and debris made it nearly impossible to traverse roadways from Lake Charles’ downtown district to the parish line, Galan said. However, residents didn’t sit back and wait for other agencies to help out, he said.

“Within 2-3 hours, we were going back downtown, and you could already see homeowners using their personal chainsaws and equipment to clear roads,” he said. “You don’t see that everyday — people doing their part to restore the community so that others could come back quicker.”

Galan said his position with the parish gives him a unique perspective to see the community working together for the greater good.

“On a personal level, it’s a reminder that this is the place I want to be,” he said. “Rebuilding is something special that I want to be a part of. It’s going to take the whole community to pull off long-term recovery, but Southwest Louisiana is definitely the place to do it.”

 

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Alberto Galan

Special to the American Press