Louisiana becomes the 11th state to create a statewide Chief Resilience Officer, but might be making the same mistake as the other 10

On July 10, 2023, Governor John Bel Edwards held a ceremonial signing for legislation creating Louisiana’s first statewide Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), a high level policy position dedicated to enhancing coordination across government to proactively address all types of environmental hazards.

This will make Louisiana the 11th U.S. state to have a state-level CRO.

The concept of resilience means doing everything we can to avoid the cost of disasters to our people, to our land, and to our way of life,” said Governor Edwards.

This is an urgent need not just for our coastal region, but for the entire state, which feels the effects of hurricanes, storms, and land loss on a yearly basis. This new position will ensure that successive governors continue to prioritize this issue and seek funding to help our communities as they prepare to thrive in the future,” he continued.

The CRO position within the Office of the Governor will add capacity and a policy focus to the existing response and recovery functions carried out by the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit.

In this way, the move is a bit disappointing, since it makes the same mistake of so many other CRO positions: ignoring the obvious and necessary link between revitalization and resilience. As documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity, the best revitalization and resilience initiatives are based on the same basic activities: repurposing, renewing and reconnecting natural, built and socioeconomic assets.

Linking the goals creates natural efficiencies and synergies, since everyone wants improved economies and quality of life (revitalization), and everyone wants revitalization to last (resilience). Locking revitalization and resilience in seperate silos of funding and activities wastes tremendous opportunities to increase funding and public support for both.

Hopefully, these state-level CROs won’t make the same mistake of the city-level CROs created by the failed 100 Resilient Cities program of the Rockefeller Foundation: confusing the writing of plans (to be shelved and never seen again) with actual progress.

Modeled from the job description of the Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities, the Chief Resilience Officer will coordinate across all state agencies and seek public input to develop and then advocate for the state’s resilience priorities.

The position was established within the Office of the Governor by legislation authored by Representative Jerome Zeringue.

My goals in bringing this legislation were to help make state government more efficient and effective when it comes to seeking funding and as it crafts policies that can make our state more resilient and better able to address the needs of our communities,” said Rep. Zeringue.

What we learned while working on coastal issues is that you can be much more effective when you are competing for funding when you speak with a single voice and with the authority of the Governor’s Office, something crucially important with the unprecedented levels of federal funding for resilience projects available today,” he added.

The CRO will participate across multiple planning efforts such as the Coastal Master Plan, State Hazard Mitigation Plan, and Watershed Plan to ensure their continuity and alignment.

The CRO will take on pressing issues that affect multiple regions, state agencies, or governmental missions; and the CRO will convene both an interagency coordination team to improve communication and alignment within government, and a public-facing Interagency Resilience Task Force to gather public input on the state’s resilience priorities.

By February of each year, the Chief Resilience Officer will also produce a report outlining the state’s major resilience priorities.

This is a critical step forward for Louisiana. Our systems of governance were created during a different time, and we must adapt and evolve in order to meet the challenges we’re facing today and in the future,” said Camille Manning-Broome, President and CEO at the Center for Planning Excellence.

This position provides for more nimble decision making across state government and collaboration among public and private actors at the local, state, and federal levels that can make valuable contributions to our governance system – as well as an opportunity to work closely with communities to adapt programs and policies to address the complex constellation of risk and challenges they are facing. Perhaps most importantly, the CRO position housed within the Governor’s Office can facilitate the big-picture thinking and comprehensive planning Louisiana needs to exit the cycle of disaster and recovery and enter an era of persistent progress that enables communities to thrive,” she explained.

In 2020, Governor Edwards joined ten other states by naming a Chief Resilience Officer to advance a cross-agency, holistic approach to the challenges and opportunities associated with the impacts of environmental hazards in Louisiana’s coastal area.

That work produced vulnerability assessments and adaptation options from 12 state agencies and cross-agency recommendations which included the creation of a statewide and multi-hazard resilience position within the Office of the Governor.

Louisiana continues to demonstrate their international leadership and innovation in tackling the complex issues of climate by taking bold and impactful action to build resilience across the state,” said Dr. Natalie Snider, Associate Vice President of Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds program.

By establishing a Chief Resilience Officer and resilience coordinator in every state agency, the state will be better equipped to take a comprehensive approach to managing future disasters, securing federal funding and building a better future for all Louisianians,” she concluded.

Photo of the Louisiana state capitol is courtesy of the Baton Rouge Downtown Development District.

See a copy of Act 315 establishing the Chief Resilience Officer in statute.

See an executive summary, agency report cards, and the full report from the coastal resilience work.

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