Gov.-Elect Edwards announces Cabinet, Executive Staff, BESE Board appointments

Staff Report
Gov.-Elect John Bel Edwards.

BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor-elect John Bel Edwards announced several key cabinet appointments for his administration. Gov.-elect Edwards announced the following positions:

Secretary, Department of Health and Hospitals – Dr. Rebekah E. Gee

Secretary, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality – Dr. Chuck Brown

Secretary, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Correction – Jimmy LeBlanc

Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities, Coastal

Protection and Restoration Authority Board Chairman – Johnny Bradberry

Director, Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness – Jim Waskom

Executive Director, Louisiana Workforce Commission – Ava Dejoie

Executive Director, Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority – Senator Robert Adley

State Fire Marshal, Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal Public Safety Services – Butch Browning

Executive Director, Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice – Jim Craft

Gov.-elect Edwards also announced the following staff appointments:

Senior Policy Advisor, Governor’s Office – Jeanne Johnston

Senior Special Assistant to the Governor – Alicia Williams

“I committed to the people of Louisiana that I would put a team in place that looks like the state as a whole. I am certain that we are assembling the team of people best positioned to tackle the challenges we face and put Louisiana first. It is a privilege to work with these fine public servants and I look forward to all of the great things they will accomplish to make Louisiana an even better state for our children and grandchildren,” Gov.-elect Edwards said.

In addition to announcing these appointments, Gov.-elect Edwards also announced appointments to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Board. The board member announcements include:

Board Member – Lurie Thomason Jr.

Board Member –Thomas Roque

Board Member – Doris Voitier

“Improving public education is a top priority for every parent in the state, including me," Gov.-elect Edwards said. "These new board members will bring solution-driven ideas for the challenges we are facing so that we can produce better outcomes for all of our students, moving forward with the best options for parents, and treating teachers and school employees with the respect they deserve."


Cabinet Appointees:

Dr. Rebekah Gee is the Medicaid Medical Director for the state of Louisiana. She is an Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Louisiana State University. Dr. Gee completed a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program at the University of Pennsylvania and there received a Master of Science in Health Policy Research. She studied history and obtained her M.P.H. at Columbia University in Health Policy and Management, obtained her medical degree at Cornell, and trained in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Harvard at the Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospitals. Since moving to Louisiana in 2009, she served as the medical director for the maternity program of Title V, the state’s maternal health federal block grant program. In 2010, Dr. Gee was named Director of the Birth Outcomes Initiative, an Assistant Secretary level position in Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals aimed at improving the health of Louisiana’s women and children.

Dr. Chuck Brown currently serves as the President and CEO of Brown and Associates, a private, global environmental consulting services firm based in Baton Rouge, LA. Dr. Brown also serves as the Vice President of Metro Services Group, a firm with expertise and certifications in the areas of environmental services, construction/demolition, and disaster response and recovery located in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Brown has over 34 years of experience in environmental regulation, project management, emergency response, risk analysis, research, governmental relations, and waste management. During his tenure as Assistant Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, he was responsible for the issuance of all air, water, and waste permits in the State of Louisiana.

Jimmy LeBlanc of Jackson, LA was appointed secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections in January 2008 by Governor Bobby Jindal. Prior to his appointment, he served as the warden of the Dixon Correctional Institute since 1995. He has worked to promote public safety strategies aimed at reducing victimization, improving public safety, and reducing the cost of incarceration while focusing on improving education, job skills, and character-based training to reduce the rate of recidivism. Jimmy has previously served as the Undersecretary for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections from 1992-1995, and from 1989-1992 he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary II for the Division of Enterprises.

Johnny Bradberry is Vice President of Business Development for Volkert, a 90 year old multi-discipline engineering and environmental firm with 30 offices across the southeastern United States, including four locations in Louisiana. He spearheaded the development of a new Volkert business aimed at providing professional engineering services to the energy sector and broader industrial community. Before being asked to develop and lead the new Volkert venture, Johnny previously served as the COO of TOPCOR Companies and President of TOPCORE Services. Johnny served as the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development during the administration of Governor Blanco from 2004-2008.

Jim Waskom is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army and served the United States for 33 years. He served three combat tours during Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn totaling 30 months in a combat zone. During that time, he was the leader of two organizations directly responsible for the safety and welfare of over 50,000 solider, sailors, airmen, marines, DoD civilians and foreign national workers. Jim owns his own private practice law firm and works as a contract attorney with 15th JDC IDO. He is a former prosecutor in the 19th Judicial District and Inspector General of the Louisiana National Guard.

Ava Dejoie is a workforce development executive with fifteen years of leadership experience in public administration and workforce development. Before serving as the Statewide Rapid Response Coordinator for the Louisiana Workforce Commission since 2012, Ava worked as the Business Liaison for the Louisiana Department of Education, the manager of the Avondale Employee Transition Center, and as the Vice President of Welfare to Work Partnership. Ava is a graduate of Loyola University of New Orleans.

Senator Robert Adley is from Benton, Louisiana. He served three terms in the Louisiana State Senate representing District 36 since 2003. He also served in the Louisiana House of Representatives representing District 8 from 1979-1995. He most recently chaired the Senate Committee on Transportation, Highways, and Public Works. Senator Adley is a veteran of the US Marine Corps and served in the Vietnam War. He has a long history of working in the oil and gas industry and is the president of Pelican Gas Management, which he has owned since 1993. He currently serves on the executive committee of The Energy Council and is a member of the Southern States Energy Board.

Butch Browning was appointed the Louisiana State Fire Marshal on March 8, 2008 by Governor Bobby Jindal. Fire Marshal Browning has a wealth of knowledge and experience in firefighting, fire training, response and emergency preparedness. He has served in all levels of the fire service. He entered public service as a sheriff’s deputy for East Baton Rouge Parish in 1986, and later taught firefighting techniques as an adjunct professor at LSU from 1987 to 1998. Browning also served as Assistant Fire Chief for the District 6 Fire Department in Baton Rouge from 1987 to 1998, when he was promoted to Fire Chief and prior to his appointment as State Fire Marshal he proudly served as the City of Gonzales Fire Chief since 2001.

Jim Craft is a 39-year veteran of the Lafayette Police Department. In January, 2007, Craft was named Lafayette Chief of Police after serving approximately 10 months as Interim Chief. Chief Craft has held Command positions in the Patrol Division, Criminal Investigation Division, and Services Divisions. During 18 years working as an investigator and supervisor in Criminal Investigations, he was involved in over 1,500 major felony cases. He also commanded the Department's SWAT Team and Dignitary Protection Team. As the Director of the fourth largest police department in the state, Chief Craft has spearheaded changes to the department’s internal administrative investigative process. He has been recognized for his experience regarding officer-involved shootings, adhering to the police officer bill of rights, and case presentations to the local civil service board. Chief Craft established and commanded a joint task force of federal, state and local law enforcement officers to address a series of related sexual assaults spanning a 12 year period.

Staff Appointees:

Jeanne Johnston has over 30 years of experience in education policy, serving in both the executive and legislative branches. She began developing her policy expertise in the House of Representatives in 1982 and moved to the Senate in 1984. After spending time in the private sector, she returned to state service as the Legislative Liaison and Director of Special Projects for the Louisiana Department of Education from 2000-2007. She returned to the Senate staff in 2007, where she currently serves as the Chief Legislative Researcher and primary staff for the Senate Education Committee.

Alicia Williams is a native of Grambling, LA. She has decades of experience in public service and project management. She served in the U.S. Army National Guard. Alicia also served two former U.S. Senators, Senator J. Bennett Johnston and Senator Mary Landrieu as well as former Lt. Gov. Melinda Schwegmann.

BESE Appointees:

Lurie Thomason Jr. has been at Grambling State University since 1995 and is a tenured assistant professor in the Criminal Justice Department. Over the years, he has taught and advised students, provided services to the university, and established student development programs. True to his values of opportunities to each young person, he served as the Acting Director of Judicial Affairs during his time as Grambling where he presided over hearings related to student misconduct, revised policy and procedures, and developed appropriate sanctions for student code violations.

Thomas Roque is the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Alexandria, LA. He oversees eights schools with an enrollment of 2,400 students, 300 teachers, and support staff. He is responsible for school evaluations, enrichment, and fostering a strong Catholic identity within each school. Thomas previously served as the Assistant Superintendent of Administration in Rapides Parish from 1997-2010 and worked in various capacities at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts for 11 years. Before that, he was a principal of two high schools in Natchitoches Parish.

Doris Voitier was appointed Superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish Public Schools on August 10, 2004. She became Superintendent after a 33-year career in the St. Bernard school system, following years of experience as a high school mathematics teacher. She has previously served as Coordinator of Accounting, Supervisor of Accounting and Instruction, Associate Superintendent for Finance and Support Services, and Assistant Superintendent. A graduate of Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans, she completed her student teaching at Chalmette High School and remained on staff as a teacher there upon her graduation from UNO. Doris holds a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction.