Director of new position plans to attack blight in Jefferson Par - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Director of new position plans to attack blight in Jefferson Parish


JEFFERSON PARISH, LA - Jefferson Parish has a new department with a new leader to attack the health risks and eyesores of code violations such as tall grass.

Catherine Toppel moved to Louisiana from South Bend, Indiana.

In less than two weeks, she was already on a mission.

"I've already driven around and found quite a few violations," Toppel said.

As the Jefferson Parish Director of Property Maintenance, Zoning and Quality of Life, she and her staff in the newly formed department will focus solely on fighting decay.

"The cry in Jefferson Parish has been that they want somebody to address this on a permanent basis as far as a department is concerned. That's why the council approved it last year. They want somebody that's going to look at it everyday and make it better so you don't have the people who call in the complaints, you don't need to call in the complaints, it's already been tackled ahead of time," Toppel said.

She's armed with new grass height requirements. The maximum height allowed used to be a foot tall. Now, grass can only get eight inches high.

"So there will definitely be a need for more inspections as the eight inches is probably going to produce more violations," said Toppel.

According to, Councilman at Large Chris Roberts said the council hears more complaints from residents on code enforcement than with any other department.

Dividing the Department of Inspection and Code Enforcement into two departments is supposed to help speed up the violation processes.

One department will focus on new building inspection, the other, lead by Toppel, will attack blight.

"The fact that this staff will only concentrate on that, I feel the neighborhoods will feel the effect immediately," said Toppel.

The move is supposed to address concerns quickly while at the same time, Toppel said, bring the Parish up to speed with the rest of the country.

"There's not too many departments nationwide that have a combined unit any longer," said Toppel. "Most departments have separated out their enforcement process for quality of life issues just for this reason alone to tackle it better." 

Toppel said at the end of this year's fairly harsh winter grass sprouted with the rain and warmth, and violations already took root.

The position of Quality of Life Director has to be approved by the Parish Council.

Toppel expects the approval to take place at the parish council meeting on March 19th.

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