Gov.-Elect John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday that Shawn Wilson of Lafayette will head the state Department of Transportation and Development. Wilson, who earlier this month earned a Ph.D. in public policy from the Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy at Southern University, has served as chief of staff for the department under three previous secretaries and two governors over the past decade.
Wilson will replace current Secretary Sherri LeBas in January.
For Lafayette, the timing could not be better; the capable leader is well aware of the community’s needs as it grapples with the planning process for the I-49 Connector.
The New Orleans native earned bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from UL, where he served as Student Government Association president and student member of the University of Louisiana System Board. He holds a master of public administration degree.
Wilson is the former executive director of the Louisiana Serve Commission and former deputy legislative director in the Blanco Administration with transportation policy responsibilities.
Wilson and his wife Rocki have two children, Shawn Denise (21) and Joshua Bakari (13).
Edwards also made the following appointments Wednesday.
Adjutant General, Louisiana National Guard – Major General Glenn Curtis
Superintendent, Louisiana State Police – Colonel Michael Edmonson
Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs – Joey Strickland
Secretary, Louisiana Economic Development – Don Pierson
Secretary, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries – Charlie Melancon
Commissioner, Office of Motor Vehicle – Karen St. Germain
Commissioner, Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control – Juana Marine-Lombard
“Louisiana faces significant challenges, but I have never been more optimistic about the future of our state,” Edwards said in the press release. “We’re assembling the best team possible that is well-positioned to tackle these challenges from day one.”
In addition to confirming these appointments, Edwards also announced more appointments to his executive staff:
Executive Counsel – Matthew Block
Special Counsel – Erin Monroe Wesley
Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications, Legal, Special Projects – Julie Baxter Payer
Deputy Chief of Staff, Intergovernmental Affairs – Toye Taylor
Deputy Chief of Staff, Programming and Planning – Johnny G. Anderson
Background on cabinet appointees:
Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis is a graduate of Buckeye High School. He holds a bachelor of science degree in agriculture business from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the United States Army War College. He enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard in March 1982. General Curtis’ military education includes the NBC Defense Officer/NCO Course, Engineer Officer Basic Course, Defense Hazardous Materials Handling Curse, Unit Movement Officer Course, Engineer Officer Advanced Course, Combine Arms and Services Staff School, Command and General Staff Officer Course, and the U.S. Army War College. General Curtis resides in Alexandria.
Retired Col. Joey Strickland, a native of Tallulah, is a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army, having served two combat tours in Vietnam. He previously served as the director of Louisiana Troops to Teachers, director of Veterans Affairs under Gov. Mike Foster, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs under Gov. Kathleen Blanco. For five years, he led the Arizona Department of Veterans Affairs. Col. Strickland currently resides in Walker.
Col. Mike Edmonson has served as the Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police since 2008. He has served as a Louisiana state trooper for over 35 years. He is a graduate of LSU, FBI National Academy, FBI National Executive Institute, Naval Post Graduate School and Jewish Institute for National Security. For 26 years he served as head of security for the LSU football team and every head coach from Stovall to Miles.
Don Pierson, originally from Shreveport-Bossier, is the Senior Director of Business Development for Louisiana Economic Development. He has served as Assistant Secretary and Chief Marketing Officer for LA Economic Development (LED) since January 2005. He has over 27 years of economic development experience and is a certified economic development professional. Before coming to LED, Pierson served for 17 years in the Shreveport/Bossier community as Executive Director of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Pierson served as an airborne and ranger qualified Infantry officer in the 82nd Airborne Division for five years.
Charlie Melancon is a native of Napoleonville and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2006-2011. He holds a B.S. in agriculture business from UL Lafayette. In Congress, Melancon served on the Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Science, and Budget committees. He played a major role in coordinating the private and intergovernmental responses for disaster recovery and rebuilding in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Prior to his Congressional term, he was president and general manager of the American Sugar Cane League of the U.S.A Inc. and, from 1987-1993, a Louisiana State Representative from District 60. In 1973, at the age of 25, he was appointed Executive Director of the South Central Planning and Development Commission in Thibodaux. Melancon lives in Baton Rouge.
Karen St. Germain was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2003, and has served her constituents in District 60 for the past 12 years. Rep. St. Germain serves as the chairwoman for the House Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee. She is also a member of the House Executive Committee, the Joint Legislative Committee on Capital Outlay, the House Committee on Homeland Security, and the Joint Committee on Homeland Security. In addition, St. Germain serves as a member of the Acadiana Delegation, The Capital Regional Legislative Delegation, the Democratic Caucus and the Louisiana Rural Caucus. She is also chairwoman of the Atchafalaya Basin Subcommittee, as well as of the Louisiana Women’s Caucus. She was also appointed to the Louisiana Fire and Emergency Training Commission in 2012 by Gov. Jindal. She lives in Pierre Part.
Juana Marine-Lombard is an attorney and graduate Loyola University New Orleans Law School currently serving as criminal magistrate commissioner for the Parish of Orleans. She formerly served four years on the City of New Orleans Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and served as both vice chair and chair of the board.
Background on executive office staff:
Matthew Block is an attorney from Thibodaux and has been in private practice there for 17 years. He has experience in commercial and governmental litigation and also been a mediator for the last three years. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Tulane Law School.
Erin Monroe Wesley was born and raised in Shreveport. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in internal auditing from LSU and a juris doctorate from the Southern University Law Center. She serves as the executive VP and chief operating officer for Baton Rouge Area Chamber, where she oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization. Prior to this role, Wesley served as BRAC’s senior vice president of governmental affairs. Prior to joining BRAC, she served as the executive counsel for the office of Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, associate executive counsel for Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and as a staff attorney for the Louisiana State Senate.
Julie Baxter Payer has a background in both media and the law, having served most recently as senior communications adviser for the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office and previously as Senate counsel for the Senate Committee on Judiciary A. Julie spent 14 years working as a journalist in radio and television news, covering the State Capitol. In 2005, after earning her law degree from the LSU Law Center, she practiced law with two private law firms before joining the Louisiana Senate as staff counsel. She is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association Board of Governors and House of Delegates and lives in Baton Rouge.
Toye Taylor is a native of Bogalusa. He has held numerous elected positions, including service on the Bogalusa City Council, mayor of the City of Bogalusa and Washington Parish President. He currently serves as the assistant director of municipal affairs at the Louisiana Municipal Association. From 2008-2012, he served as deputy director of intergovernmental affairs for the office of the governor.
Johnny G. Anderson previously served as special assistant to Louisiana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, assistant chief of staff to Gov. Kathleen Blanco and as a member of the Southern University Board of Supervisors. Anderson also serves as executive administrator (CAO) at the Greater King David Baptist Church. He is a graduate of Eunice High School and earned a bachelor of science in business management and marketing from Southern University.