Big shoes to fill at LCVC

by Leslie Turk

After three decades as the top tourism official in the parish, Gerald Breaux is stepping down.

The news came as a surprise to us and apparently everyone in the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission board meeting Wednesday afternoon: LCVC Executive Director Gerald Breaux announced at his retirement at the regular monthly meeting (moved up a week because of the holiday). Breaux will step down at the end of June, after nearly 31 years on the job.

The only other person aware the announcement was coming was Breaux's wife Helen, a retired school teacher. The decision, 61-year-old Breaux says, was anything but spur of the moment. "Helen and I have talked about it for many months," he says. "Now we can do the things we want to do." Though he was not specific about those "things," saying he's not quite sure how he'll spend his retirement ("check back with me at the end of May, and then I'll tell you"), travel is definitely on the agenda. Breaux's developed a love for traveling over his decades on the road promoting Lafayette Parish. Only now it'll be all pleasure.

Among his reasons for stepping down, Breaux also says it's time for new leadership at LCVC: "It's maybe someone else's turn to come in and move the place forward again."

Breaux's recommendation to the nine-member LCVC board and incoming board President Jimmy Thackston of the Hilton was to form a four-member committee that would determine how the search will be conducted. Breaux, however, stresses that all decisions are the board's call. Breaux's salary is $142,000, but he has no idea what the job will pay his successor. "It's totally up to the search committee," he says.

Under Breaux LCVC has successfully promoted Lafayette across the country and internationally, and this summer was instrumental in Lafayette earning the honor of Best Small Town for Food in Rand McNally and USA Today's Best of the Road competition, an accolade that included a feature in USA Today Travel. It was a high point in Breaux's career, but he says those high points came more often than not. "I'm proud every day that we have such a great city and such a great product to promote," he says. "Our brand is our culture, our food and our music. It's been a great, great opportunity."

A Lafayette native, Northside High and 1972 UL grad, Breaux worked in sales at The Daily Advertiser right out of college for about a year and then moved to Washington, D.C., for an administrative job with the FBI. He returned to Lafayette in the mid-1970s to work for the late Mayor Kenny Bowen as his administrative assistant. In 1981 he was hired for the LCVC job - and never had a reason to update his resume.