The Melanie Lewis Edwards described in this piece of journalism is not the person I have worked with, including the time since her appointment as director of Community Development and long before she returned to Lafayette. Those who expect Melanie to play the role of a glad-hander or flirty chick will be disappointed. Her professional style — and to some degree, personal manner — is a studied, informed, thoughtful practice that has made Community Development a better place for work to get done and for goals to be reached. The ability to empower staff is an important quality of a good leader, and this is what Melanie does. This quality supports a sound, structured, non-combative environment that benefits those who fill the ranks of Community Development and the constituents of LCG.
Your story quotes one panelist as asking “Where is she?” Melanie is actively pursuing the goals of her department, literally walking neighborhoods where DCD has programs in place. She may be in meetings with or conducting research in areas relative to the operations of the Heymann Performing Arts Center, the Acadiana Recovery Center or the Lafayette Science Museum. Her department is responsible for affordable housing initiatives, and supervision of all external agency funding.
Since Melanie and I met when she was a college student, serving a summer internship for the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, she has been everywhere. Literally, around the world.
I know the characteristics of aloofness and remoteness that one might ascribe to the style of Melanie Lewis Edwards. As I am frequently warned by my advisors, “Don’t confuse style with substance.” Melanie’s style is not my style. Thankfully, hers is more thoughtful in response, less combative and more diplomatic — no surprise, since she brings a powerful resumé from the U.S. Department of State. The global professional experience that Melanie Lewis Edwards brings to our local government eclipses that of any other director and she is an asset that our community cannot replace. It’s unthinkable that this type of experience would not be recognized as valuable by those who consider themselves smart community leaders.