An advisor to Mayor LaToya Cantrell who helped launch new initiatives like a gun violence prevention office has left, the latest senior departure at the start of Cantrell’s second term.
The last day on the job for Joshua Cox, whose title was senior advisor and director of strategic initiatives, was May 25. The 35-year-old attorney and former school teacher served with Cantrell since the start of her first term in May 2018.
Cox said he had no immediate plans other than taking the summer off.
“I came into this with a goal of direct service, of getting resources to people who need them the most,” he said. “I feel like I’m ready for the next challenge.”
The Mayor’s Office didn’t immediately comment on whether Cox will be replaced. Other major recent departures include Cantrell’s communications director, her infrastructure czar, the city attorney and the head of public safety and homeland security. Such turnover is not uncommon between a mayor’s first and second terms.
Cox’s responsibilities were split between two areas. He was involved in managing the administration’s relationships with various boards and commissions, including appointments and removals.
The other half of the job involved, he said, “being an entrepreneur and trying to figure out innovative ways to solve problems that are affecting people in the city.”
Among the new initiatives was the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund, which redirected money previously spent on marketing toward cultural organizations and performers.
During the pandemic, Cox also led emergency programs like the use of a donation from Cash Money Records’ Birdman to pay the rent for residents of the former Magnolia, Calliope, and Melpomene projects, and a separate project to raise money for COVID-19 testing sites.
More recently, Cox was instrumental in launching a guaranteed income pilot program that provides financial support for at-risk youth.
He also played a key role in the April 2021 creation of the city’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which is charged with coordinating public health-based programs, such as a non-profit that puts formerly incarcerated people to work cutting grass, and an in-house program to provide shooting victims with social services.
The gun violence prevention work has drawn skepticism from some City Council members, most notably at-large Council member JP Morrell, who accused Cox at a January hearing of creating programs without evidence that they worked.
Cox was also one of several administration officials to receive a subpoena for documents regarding the canceled “smart cities” project. Cox’s departure was already in the works before he received that subpoena.
Cox declined to comment on his relationship with the council, but has said in the past that critics would change their minds about the gun violence office if they witnessed the work it was doing on the ground.