Facing Up

Once a year we face the task of identifying our annual class of People to Watch. We define “People to Watch” as mostly new faces who are doing something interesting with their lives that’s worthy of our awareness; or, in some cases, familiar faces moving in a different direction. To save face, we will concede that there are many other watch-worthy people out there. These are just samples. Nevertheless, we stand by the worthiness of those presented here. For that, there will be no about-face.



Lindsay Adler
General Manager, Tipitina’s

It is really not hard to discern how Lindsay Adler came to be Tipitina’s first female and youngest general manager in the landmark’s history.
“Growing up, I always had a passion for music,” Adler says. “My dad influenced my musical tastes from the beginning. He loved the Beatles, Steely Dan, Little Feat and singers like Ella Fitzgerald.”
She claims it was this love for music and culture that brought her to New Orleans to attend Tulane University. Well, it must be true love because Adler came at age 18, hit the music scene with a splash and has no plans to leave. “I started going to Tipitina’s a lot while I was in college. One day, I just showed up at the office and said, ‘I want to work here.’”
From street promoter on up, Adler has dedicated her whole life to safeguarding this element of the city’s history. As general manager, she lends her energy to the Tipitina’s Foundation to help preserve local culture.
“Working with the Tipitina’s Foundation has been one of the most rewarding things about coming  to the club,” she says. “Tipitina’s holds a very special place in my heart, and it always will.”
 
Marci Schramm
Executive Director, French Quarter Festivals, Inc.

After leaving her executive director position with the New Orleans Opera in January, Marci Schramm found another happy match for her production skills and love of entertainment – director of French Quarter Festivals, Inc.
“I can truly say I love my job. The rewards are endless. There is nothing more amazing than throwing a party for over 400,000 people.”
Whether it’s the World’s Largest Jazz Brunch or second-lining at the Satchmo Club Strut, Schramm creates fun times for all. For the French Quarter Festival in April, she erected 18 stages of music, and then blended art, food and music during Satchmo SummerFest in August.
“Everything we do is celebrating all things local,” Schramm says. “What I love most about my organization is the amazing sense of community spirit.”
 French Quarter Festivals relies on New Orleans’ business, artistic and philanthropic communities to engage the entire city. With the support of local vendors and their amazing sponsors, these festivals can remain free to the public.
Schramm is now working on December’s festival, Christmas New Orleans Style. “The French Quarter is the heart of this city,” she says. “People love to use our festivals as an excuse to come down and rediscover their gorgeous and historic city.”
 
Michael Sniffen
President and CEO, Touro Infirmary

Not even a month had passed before Michael Sniffen’s interim appointment as president and CEO of Touro Infirmary was made official in May.
“Touro Infirmary has been part of the New Orleans community for more than 156 years; I am honored to be part of the legacy.”
Sniffen has over 30 years experience in hospital management. More than ever, he sees New Orleans as a city in need of “access to quality health care. Finding new and better ways to do that is what gets me up in the morning.”
As with all things in the city, Hurricane Katrina has left a long list of obstacles for leaders. Sniffen has made the financial front his first target because of the crippling effects of escalated costs of labor, utilities, supplies and insurance. “We often lose money every time a patient walks through our doors.”
The factors aggravating this issue are on every level from legislation on down. But Sniffen’s energy is renewed by his work’s purpose. “When a patient, family member or employee thanks me for what our organization does, it makes my day.”
 
Tommy Screen
Director, Institute of Politics and Assistant to the President for Government Relations, Loyola University of New Orleans

When Ed Renwick retired as director of the Institute of Politics at Loyola University of New Orleans, no one had to look very far to find his replacement.
“It will certainly be a challenge to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Renwick,” Tommy Screen says. “But I am really excited about the upcoming class of the IOP, my first.”
Tommy Screen (the son of former Jesuit and LSU Quarterback and then Baton Rouge Mayor Pat Screen) has been Loyola’s director of Government Relations for almost three years. Before that, he served as legislative aide to former U.S. Senator John Breaux. His varied political experience has exposed Screen to the many things that he wishes to bring to the Institute.
“I would like to help the Institute of Politics to grow so that we can attract some of the country’s finest political minds to come speak to the Institute,” Screen says.
Not only was Screen honored by the position but he also found that his “positions at Loyola allow me to satisfy my political ‘fix,’” he says. “I have always enjoyed the political process but have not wanted to be an elected official.”
At the helm of this institution, Screen keeps his focus on a successful first year, “I have always been told that you have to walk before you can run.”
 
Sarah Ashley Longshore
Artist; Entrepreneur; CEO, Longshore Gallery Studio

Nothing could keep Sarah Ashley Longshore from becoming an artist. Her genuine passion and enthusiasm for making art is only matched by her endless ambition.
She is determined to find greatness and makes no apologies about it. “People should watch because its gonna be a show,” Longshore says. “A big fabulous show!”
For the moment, Longshore is proudly boasting the sale of the painting [in picture] to international-star Selma Hayek and the $75,000 sales of an eco-tote that she designed with Alvin Alley, available at Duane Reade in New York.
“Out of all that I do,” Longshore says, “my greatest accomplishment is teaching other people how to paint.” So, she has decided to open to her own space to teach, paint and show, to be called Longshore Gallery Studio.
Longshore will join the Magazine Street art scene this month. But if you can’t wait, pop on over to Perch on Magazine Street where her paintings will continue to sell or visit her Web site: www.ashleylongshore.com.
Don’t wait too long because this New Orleans artist won’t be a local secret for much longer. As she says, “I want jumbo jets with my paintings in them. I want to paint the Queen’s portrait. I want an empire!”
 
Kenneth LaCour
Restaurateur, Grand Forks Group

As Kenny LaCour prepares for the opening of his newest restaurant, Rambla, his days are filled with wine selections, drapery, flatware and the myriad decisions made to form a restaurant’s atmosphere.
“I know it is cliché,” he says, “but I don’t know that I chose this career; it chose me.”
LaCour’s fine taste and cultural curiosity have already found a place on the refined local palate at restaurants Dakota on the Northshore and the downtown Cuvée. Together with business partner and chef, Kim Kringlie, the two created  those eateries under the name of the Grand Forks Group.
The popularity of their restaurants has soared because of their culturally inventive concepts. For LaCour, the industry has given him the forum to recreate “my travels and dining experiences and share them with my friends and guests.”
His journeys led him to the Catalonian region of Spain, where Spanish and French cuisines collide. Now, his restaurant Rambla, named after a thoroughfare in Barcelona, is opening in the International House in New Orleans – the daughter city of Spain and France.
Still, “I think one of my greatest accomplishments has been acting on the idea to open our first place, Dakota on the Northshore. Everything that has happened for us since then has been enabled by that idea.”
 
Charles Muir Lovell
Director, Newcomb Art Gallery

After a celebrated tenure at the University of New Mexico’s Harwood Museum in Taos, Charles Lovell brings his talents to Tulane University’s Newcomb Art Gallery.
“I enjoy the dynamic energy of the visual arts,” he says. The former photographer redirected his great vision for art to the direction of galleries. His background has imparted a unique and sensitive touch to his management of artistic venues.
But Lovell’s vision encompasses the business of art as well. As director, he plans “to find major support for the Newcomb Art Gallery at Tulane University in order to present an exciting annual schedule of diverse art exhibitions and educational programs that reach a Gulf Coast and national audience.”
While directing the Harwood Museum, he received an award from the Peter and Madeleine Martin Foundation for achievements in the arts for the “Diebenkorn In New Mexico” exhibition.
At Newcomb, Lovell wants the gallery’s collections and exhibitions to reflect the college and university’s histories as well as the local artistic traditions.
“We are excited about the energy and vitality of this historic and artistic city and living up to the rich Newcomb legacy.”
 
Sonya Chatman-Leathers
Designer and Owner, The Charity Collection

Sonya Chatman-Leathers has landed her dream job. “It has always been my dream to design fashion. Now, I am able to combine my two passions: designing and helping others.”
For her, the dream job isn’t defined by big bucks and benefits. She has always worked for a cause.
Chatman-Leathers had put her fashion career on hold until her son told her it was time to pursue her passions. As a single mother, she “wanted to help single mothers with image building by showing them how to dress for an interviews and the work place.”
Now, she has found a way design for another cause, HIV/AIDS. After the disease broke out in the 1980s, she became aware to the prolific and potent presence of HIV/AIDS in this country.
Her charity doesn’t stop with her 1980s-influenced collection. She gives time at Houston’s Bering Omega’s Residential Hospice House for AIDS patients.
“When I actually saw the finish product of my HIV/AIDS Awareness Signature Gown, I cried because I finally saw my dream right in front of me,” she says.
The Charity Collection is working with a variety of organizations, including the NO/AIDS Task Force in New Orleans as well as Designers Against AIDS in the U.S. and Belgium.
 
Adam Shipley
Director, Preservation Hall; President, Hep Cat Enterprises

Adam Shipley, the new director of Preservation Hall, holds a painting of the Olympia Brass Band to represent his favorite thing about New Orleans: its music.
“When I went to my first Jazz Fest, that was my second trip to New Orleans and it already felt like home.”
Shipley was already involved in the blues scene in Florida when he first attended the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. “I was sucked into the vortex of New Orleans,” he says.
Every year, he returned for Jazz Fest and began building the relationships that would eventually bring him here for work. Now, at Preservation Hall, Shipley is the one putting on the show for audiences of locals and tourists alike.
“I get to help music fans experience an amazing night of music in New Orleans. I just want to continue to show people the best musical experience of their lives.”
But he knows that there’s more to Preservation Hall than just the show. As director, he wants to restore the Hall to pre-storm operations and build a bright future.
“I plan to go back to opening seven nights a week,” he says. “I love helping this great music to survive.”
 
Lisa George and Beth Winkler-Schmit
Co-Founders, Magnolia Physical Therapy

The ladies of Magnolia Physical Therapy, Lisa George and Beth Winkler-Schmit, opened their doors only a month before Hurricane Katrina hit but managed to return swiftly.
“We just really wanted to help our patients,” Winkler-Schmit says. “The lights were on and the answer machine was working. So we just got back as fast as we could.”
In fact, patient care had been their mission from the start. Both Winkler-Schmit and George had family members treated by physical therapy and became interested in volunteering. Wanting to expand their efforts, they decided to start a business together.
“That was all Beth’s fault,” jokes George, who started in physical therapy through volunteering. Eventually, she left her career in the hotel business to become a physical therapist assistant. For her, this business was an opportunity to create a business that cares.
“We wanted to be able to care for our patients and our employees, too.” George says. “We wanted to create something different, something better.”
Specializing in the spine, the clinic has developed unique programs. Their pregnancy program responds to the body’s changes before and after birth. Their team also offers a spine program to deal with common stress and strain and a fibromyalgia program to ease pain and movement.
 
Aimée Hayes
Artistic Director, Southern Repertory Theater

Aimée Hayes didn’t rush to a career in theater. “It isn’t easy,” but, it was a love she couldn’t leave – no matter how many times she tried.
“When I am in the rehearsal room with a talented team and we’re having a great time, there’s nothing better in the world.”
As managing director, she wants to raise Southern Rep’s national recognition as a developer of new talent. Hayes and her team read stacks and stacks of scripts looking for the one that will captivate and challenge her audiences every night.
After finding gripping and engaging material, Hayes’s duties ripple out to all logistics of getting a production on- and off-stage. “Figuring out how to clean up the blood used during The Lieutenant of Inishmore, how to afford all of the apples used in The Clean House. Seriously, every show has challenges and crazy problems you never expect.”
Now, Hayes is preparing for Southern Rep’s coming shows, “I can’t wait to see each production fully realized,” she says. “Our two world premieres, Sick by Zayd Dohrn and Shotgun, by John Biguenet, bring terrific storytelling with juicy roles and incredible design challenges.”
 
Burzis R. Kanga
Head Coach, Men’s and Women’s Tennis, University of New Orleans

Coach Burzis R. Kanga has returned to New Orleans after a three-year stint in New Jersey post-Hurricane Katrina. A familiar face to UNO Athletics, Kanga is back to help the competitive tennis program, both men’s and women’s, bounce back.
“Teaching has always been a passion of mine,” he says. “I enjoy having the ability to influence and develop the minds and physical capabilities of aspiring tennis players.”
With over 25 years experience playing and coaching, Kanga will be calling on every lesson learned to marshal two teams to competitive play in less than six months. He will be busy scheduling, organizing the teams, preparing his players and even recruiting.
“By recruiting quality student athletes that can compete at a national level, I will be able to attain my goal of my team winning a conference championship or title.”
Kanga believes that, with such a victory, UNO’s Tennis program will be able to recruit more and more players to bolster the existing team. He hopes his work will be part of improvements throughout the entire athletic program.
“A dream of mine has always been to help create a state-of-the-art sports facility on the UNO campus that could accommodate a variety of sports.”
 
Neil Abramson
Louisiana State Representative, District 98 – New Orleans

Like many people dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Neil Abramson (D) felt compelled to help. Unlike most, he sought public office to make his stand for change.
“I chose to run for state representative to help at the state level to speed up the recovery of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina,” he says. “Between my determination and the unused programs out there, I will be able to affect the many, many people who need help.”
A husband, father and partner at one New Orleans’ oldest law firms, Phelps Dunbar LLP, he ran for his first public office in 2007, seeking the vacated District 98 seat. From the start, he had a broad but specified platform. His interests are in every field from the economy to education to criminal justice.
Little more than halfway through his first term, Abramson has garnered serious recognition for his tenacity and ability. His leadership skills made him vice-chair of the Judiciary committee while he passed his Grants for Grads bill, which is a tax-rebate incentive for college graduates to begin their careers in Louisiana.
“I am working to streamline the process to effectuate change more quickly to improve the quality of life for people in my district and the city of New Orleans.”
 
Melanie Hebert
Anchor and Reporter, WDSU NewsChannel 6

You have probably seen the face of Melanie Hebert as the new addition to the Channel 6 News but she’s certainly not new to New Orleans.
After working with an Emmy-award winning news team in California, she returned home. “I love every part of being back in New Orleans,” she says. “Even the negative elements because it gives me work to do and the chance to make a difference.”
Hebert is from a New Orleans family and great-granddaughter of the couple that opened Haydel’s in Westwego. “Having lived in other places where family roots aren’t near as deep,” she says, “it fascinates me to tie all of my genealogy into the great history of this city.”
But her time spent away from home has been invaluable. As a reporter, she calls on both her local know-how and diverse experiences before approaching a story.
“People think I’m crazy when I stay up  late and I wake up at 3 a.m., but it really doesn’t feel like work to me. I love my job and I love doing it here.”
Truly knowing what it means to be “from here,” you can bet Melanie Hebert is on your side.
 
Ana Jimenez Zorrilla
Chief Executive Officer, Louisiana SPCA

“Every time a cat, dog, horse, goat, pig, rabbit, guinea pig or other critter goes to its new home,” Ana Jimenez Zorrilla says, “you know that you had a part of that happy ending.”
Zorrilla and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals staff see their work as personally rewarding and an asset to our community. Already, she has raised funds with the national organization to build a new Animal Rescue and Care Center.
“The center is the first of three buildings for the new LA/SPCA campus. This campus is the vehicle for providing services to the people and animals of our community.”
The expansion of services will include humane education programs, spay and neuter clinics and increased promotion of their adoption programs. In addition, she has seen more animal abuse cases successfully prosecuted during the last year.
“When LA/SPCA humane officers press cruelty charges or impound a neglected animal,” she says, “it’s painful to witness but it also drives home how important the work is.
From rescue to adoption, Zorrilla wants to make our community more humane for animals and humans alike. “There are few places where you see the impact of your work on a daily basis, the way you do at the Louisiana SPCA.”

Michael Santos and Ashley Ricord Santos
Executive Producers, InsideOut Productions

Business owners, and newlyweds, Michael Santos and Ashley Ricord Santos are bringing a fresh energy to New Orleans theater.
“I want to help make New Orleans a place where the dramatic arts can have a permanent home,” Michael says. “It saddens me to think that so many theater and film artists and laborers feel they have to leave New Orleans and go to a ‘coast’ in order to be successful at their art.”
The two have already produced a round of successful projects and made a place for themselves amongst our many theatre houses. They have joined the NOLA Project at Le Petit Theatre to produce Side Man, a dramatic tale set during the end of the big band era that will debut in November.
But these two aren’t just producers. They are both accomplished actors and directors. Michael is an instructor at Delgado Community College and Ashley has just begun teaching as a “talented theater teacher” for St. Charles Parish Public Schools.
With everything in their lives related to theater, Ashley says it’s something “that comes over you one day and you can’t quite shake it. You feel miserable if you don’t have it.”
 
Jon Smith
Owner, Cork & Bottle Wines

According to Jon Smith of Cork & Bottle Wines, people in his industry have only one thing in common: They love wine.
“There aren’t ‘Wine Industry 101’ courses in business schools. The industry draws people from myriad backgrounds, from lawyers to artists to scientists. What we all have in common is a passion for wine.”
Smith’s passion provides him with an endless energy and innovative spirit. Cork & Bottle seems to be just the beginning of his ideas for the New Orleans wine industry. Soon, he plans to expand into the neighboring lot to create a wine-tasting bar to give locals a sip of the winery experience.
From his location on Orleans Avenue, he has become a community leader by revitalizing the farmer’s markets with the Mid-City Green Market on Thursday. “Wine truly is a socializing and unifying beverage. As a result, I can use my business to bring people together to create growth and interest in my community. If I can make it a better place to be, well, I think that’s a pretty good thing.”
The combination of Smith’s love for wine and people is clear in Cork & Bottle’s motto: “Removing snobbery from wine… one cork at a time.”
 
Mike Strain
Commissioner, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry

Son of a Covington cattle farmer, Mike Strain has found a role to fulfill his organic interests in agriculture and animal care, and his calling to lead as the state’s agriculture commissioner.
“I am truly honored to serve as Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry,” he says, “to work with our farmers, foresters and landowners to bring forth from the land nature’s bounty, while conserving our soil and water resources.”
Before Strain was sworn into office in January, he served in the Louisiana House of Representatives for District 74 for two terms. All the while, he and his wife ran the Claiborne Hill Veterinary Hospital in Covington, where she focuses on the small animal practice and he puts to use his doctorate in veterinary medicine, specializing in large animal care and herd health consulting.
When Strain took the office of commissioner, he was the first Republican to be elected to that office and followed the 28-year leadership of Bob Odom. Now that he’s in office, Strain has quickly gotten to work renovating the department through both policy and legislation.
Strain’s goal, “is to streamline the department, to modernize equipment and facilities while bringing change and innovation to agriculture, forestry and soil and water conservation.”

Robert A. Thomas, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Environmental Communication; Interim Director, School of Mass Communications, Loyola University of New Orleans

Robert A. Thomas, Ph.D., better known as Dr. Bob by students at Loyola University, was given the Outstanding Citizen Diplomat Award from New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council in June. He was recognized for his work to open the discussion on environmental issues to every level of society and the world it occupies.
“I work daily with groups from every walk of life, sharing my vision and urging the need to look beyond one’s selfish needs and focus on the future well-being of society.”
From his many posts at Loyola, he reaches out to the community to galvanize the growing support for environmental issues.
“My goal is to improve environmental communication to the extent that all stakeholders appreciate the need to think long term. Doing everything ranging from training journalism students how to cover the environment to working with industry to help them understand the value of social justice as a component of their operations.”
In addition, he writes standing columns for publication including The Times-Picayune and international environmental journals. By passing on these values to his students, Dr. Bob can give environmentalism more supporters for generations to follow.
 
Joe Cook
General Manager, WVUE-TV FOX 8; President, Louisiana Media Company, LLC

Joe Cook decided to retire months before Hurricane Katrina but his so-called retirement was cut short.
“The need to return and be of some help in the ongoing recovery has been stronger than any need to relax or stay retired. My wife and I missed being here. Our hearts have been here since Katrina.”
Cook’s duties as general manager of FOX 8 are coupled with his duties as the president of Louisiana Media Company, recently formed by Saints owner Tom Benson to purchase the station. In this dual role, Cook wants to expand the impact of the station and improve its news coverage.
“I enjoy that our station’s efforts can positively affect the lives of our viewers whether we are providing entertainment that viewers enjoy or whether we are providing life-saving hurricane coverage.”
Outside of the news business, Cook plans to bring other companies and talented professionals into our community. By diversifying the forms of media and companies involved, he hopes to make the company an asset to the city.
“I see FOX 8 growing rather than cutting back, so we can be a more positive force to help in the recovery,” he says.
 
Jackie Shreves
President, NOLA City Bark

As a board member of both the Louisiana SPCA and the City Park Board of Commissioners, Jackie Shreves emerged naturally as the president of NOLA City Bark.
With all the work that has been done to raise $190,000 of $500,000 to make the model dog park a reality, “I cannot emphasize enough that this is not a one-man-band.
“We are a diverse group of 22 that came together because of concern and love of animals and our city. We believe that rebuilding a better New Orleans means addressing quality-of-life issues.”
Shreves has done the research. She says that almost every city has a designated dog park and that NOLA City Bark will be a unique community-based asset to the city.
But, for the city that she loves, only the best will do. “City Park deserves the best, so does the city and its citizens,” she says. “We decided that we would not just put up a fence a call it a dog park. If we were going to do this, we would make it a model dog park in the country.”
Shreves and her group hope to raise the remaining necessary funds through a series of fundraisers this fall.
 
Bob Johnson
President and General Manager, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Bob Johnson has returned to New Orleans as the new president and general manager of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and brings with him 35 years of experience.
“It is what I do. I started as an event coordinator in North Carolina, opened UNO Lakefront Arena in 1983, managed the Superdome for 10 years. Now, I’ll finish up back in a convention center.”
Johnson has been busy preparing the Convention Center to resume its role as a convention destination attraction since last September when he began there. The post-Katrina renovation debuted in 2006, allowing operations to commence. Since then, additional features have been sprinkled around Convention Center Boulevard to continue its improvements.
“Right now, I am trying to overcome the impressions that meeting planners and potential visitors still have of the area in the aftermath of Katrina and convincing them that the city is open for their business.”
The long-term hope is that the convention center’s health can ripple throughout the business community. “All of the tourism industry components are working together more closely,” he says. “In January, the city is hosting the Professional Convention Managers Association, which is the ‘Super Bowl’ of the convention business.”
 
Kirsha Kaechele
Director, KK Projects/Life is Art Foundation

The work that Kirsha Kaechele and the KK Projects/Life is Art Foundation offer to the New Orleans and world art communities is something you truly have to see to believe.
“I spend a lot of my time just creating an environment for this kind of organic creative work.”
To provide artists with a new kind of canvas, Kaechele bought six abandoned structures in St. Roch on North Villere Street and opened them up for interpretation. Of the six, one was a bakery, another a storefront and the rest were houses built in the 1800s.
She spent many years traveling to over 50 countries as part of what she calls “her life’s education.” Through her work, she tries to bring an international spirit to the New Orleans art community by attracting artists from all over the world to create site-specific art in St. Roch.
“We want to maintain the organic nature of the project,” she says, “but long-term, I would like to see this project be a platform for a dynamic relationship to grow between the neighborhood, the city and the world beyond.”
 
Blaine Prestenbach and Craig Walker Jr.
Owners and Operators, Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar

In a city of dining legacies, two young men, Blaine Prestenbach and Craig Walker, are promising to offer a gourmet burger like none before. But, before the pair could attempt that challenge, they had to fight the city council’s moratorium on issuing new liquor licenses on historic Magazine Street.
After months of meetings with the City Planning Commission, the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission, the Garden District Association and the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association, their burger  restaurant, Charcoal’s, was granted an exception. Since then, Walker and Prestenbach have overcome every other obstacle from design restrictions to budget limitations to realize their dream.
“Some of it’s outlandish,” Walker says about the restrictions. “But, I see why it’s important. Magazine is one of the most historic streets in the world.”
When asked how they managed to convince those commissions and associations to make an exception, the two smile, look at each other and say, “Determination!”
“We just wouldn’t give up,” Prestenbach says. “We knew we had a great idea and we wouldn’t let it go.”
The opening is expected in February 2009 and the food will be “As Gourmet as a Burger Gets.”  Keep an eye out for their black Labrador Retriever, named “Charcoal,” rumored to be the restaurant’s mascot.
 
Allison Wasserman
Co-Founder, Ex-cessories.com

If you have the jewelry to spare, Allison Wasserman can help you swap it out for a new something shiny.
Wasserman and school buddy Elizabeth Rothbeind started Ex-cessories.com in April, with the idea of easing the break-up stage by providing a service to sell the jewelry your “ex” gave you to someone who could love it like new. The Web site’s motto is “Don’t get mad… Break Even!”
“Selling our first diamond for a customer in Orlando really set the stage for our capabilities. We proved to ourselves and future customers that this sort of service is both needed and feasible.”
With Rothbeind based in New York and Wasserman here in New Orleans, this online business has already reached people around the country and even the world. The girls have sold jewelry to people in Canada, London and India. Their growing numbers of clients rave about their easy and secure process of exchanging jewels and dollars.
“It’s always exciting opening our P.O. Box and seeing what a customer has sent us that day.”
As the viral marketing campaign takes off, the two might need to get Ex-cessories.com a bigger mailbox.
 
Benjamin P. Sachs
Senior Vice-President and Dean, Tulane University School of Medicine

After a long search across the nation and beyond, Benjamin Sachs was asked to be the head of the Tulane University School of Medicine. For the last 30 years, Sachs has been at Harvard Medical School training in clinical and public health administration. But when the opportunity to move down south came, he didn’t hesitate.
“At first, coming from the Northeast and having a British accent, I wondered whether people were going to accept me,” he says. “To my wonderful surprise, I have not only been welcomed at every level of this community, I have been welcomed with open arms. I am so grateful for that and honored by this opportunity.”
Like many, he recognizes the unique situation of New Orleans’ medical community. Though the city was badly damaged by the storm, Sachs and others like him see a great potential to rebuild its hospitals and keep moving forward. One way he wants to begin this process is by starting neighborhood health centers that can help provide health care to those who are uninsured and have no access to it.
“We broke ground for our first one just two months ago near Dillard University,” he says. “We hope to build in New Orleans East and Central City.”
 
Andre M. Perry Ph.D.
CEO, Capital One – UNO Charter Network; Associate Dean, College of Education and Human Development, University of New Orleans

Andre Perry, Ph.D. has many motivations behind his dedication to public education. But, there’s one story that says it all.
When he came to tour New Orleans’ public schools, he entered one classroom and was introduced as “Dr. Perry.” He smiles remembering how the classroom fell stone silent. Then, the kids burst out laughing.
“Well, I look young and my hair is long, so this one girl shouted from the back, ‘you ain’t no doctor!’ Everyone laughed again. Then, I replied, ‘If you don’t think I could be a doctor, you must not think you could be a doctor.’
“I want every kid to believe that someday, they could be doctors. That’s my job.”
Perry’s intently optimistic vision is refreshing in the discussion of New Orleans’ public schools. An accomplished analyst of educational policy, he brings a wealth of experience and a whatever-it-takes energy to our schools.
After shaking up the schools system, he’s looking forward to “working with my faculty colleagues as we boldly close the achievement gaps between New Orleans’ students.
“I know I will see a cadre of future Ph.D.s ready to take my place at the University,” he smiles.
 
Paul Maassen
General Manager, 89.9 FM/90.5 FM, WWNO/KTLN Radio

In a world that’s more connected than ever, Paul Maassen has come to modernize local station 89.9 FM.
“WWNO is poised to be a leader in public media,” he says. “This is a very exciting time to be in broadcasting.”
With a life-long fascination with broadcast, he believes in the power of media and the role of public radio. By expanding outreach through other forms of media, WWNO’s listeners will be able to find the local content away from their cars and stereos.
“We will always be a radio station first but these new forms of media provide tremendous opportunity. We are already providing online content, podcasts and Web streaming to expand our ability to provide local news.”
Maassen has propelled other stations around the country into the 21st century. His work hasn’t only brought these stations great success but also made them an asset to their communities. To do this, his first concern is the budget as he sees traditional funds declining.
But, for Maassen, it’s worth every penny. “When we broadcast something that touches people or helps them understand our world a little better, I am reminded why I got into this line of work.”
 
Jay Batt
Chairman, Republican Party of New Orleans; Co-Owner, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers

Even though Jay Batt has left public office, he certainly hasn’t left politics. As the Chairman of the Republican Party of New Orleans, Batt performs a new role in our city.
“I work to get quality people with integrity and energy elected to office in the New Orleans region, I just try to offer my help to the community where it needs the support.”
Now, he seeks to help the city’s next leaders come to office honestly and with the support of an organized network. Juggling those duties, the day-to-day at Jos. A. Bank Clothiers and his family of four, Batt never tires of his work for the city because, as he says, “There is no other place for me other than New Orleans.”
While his current work calls on his devotion to the Republican Party, his aspirations are much broader, encompassing the problems felt by everyone in the New Orleans community.
“I got involved in politics because I wanted a better place for my children and family to live. I am looking forward to a day when our city is rid of corruption and our tax dollars are spent well so that every citizen can send their children to a quality public school.”
 
Kellie R. Kennedy
Head Coach, Women’s Basketball, Loyola University of New Orleans

The ladies of Wolf Pack basketball are getting a new head basketball coach, Kellie Kennedy.
“I love the game of basketball. Coaching gives me the opportunity to affect people in a positive way and do it in a competitive, exciting environment.”
Kennedy was the assistant women’s basketball coach at Tulane University but has been busy off the court recently. Uptown, “where Oak Street meets the river,” she was serving burgers and fries at her restaurant Station 8801. But when Loyola offered her a spot on the court, she couldn’t refuse.
“I want to provide an environment where student-athletes can learn and grow emotionally, spiritually and academically, while becoming the best basketball players they can be.”
As Head Coach, Kennedy will supervise all aspects of the team’s life. She is excited to get to know her new team and get them playing at their best.
“I want to continue to be a top performer in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference and to compete for a nation title every year.”

Local group catches Disney’s imagination

Scott Durbin, Rich Collins, Dave Poche, 
and Scott “Smitty” Smith
Stars and Co-Executive Producers, Imagination Movers

Little fists pump into the air as kids and parents alike cheer for the latest kindergarten rage, the Imagination Movers.
Scott Durbin, Dave Poche, Rich Collins and Scott “Smitty” Smith are the creators of the hit children’s music group and, now, the newest addition to the Disney Channel’s morning block of children’s programming, Playhouse Disney.
Their show will be set in the “Imagination Warehouse” where the guys spend their time solving “Idea Emergencies.” The innovative concept teaches kids problem-solving skills through their signature music and handy props.
Each “Mover” has his own prop to symbolize different methods of reasoning. Mover Scott has his Wobble-Goggles to represent looking at different solutions and to introduce new ideas. Mover Rich’s Scribble Sticks can write ideas on to the screen and double as drumsticks. Mover Dave’s red Gadget Hat is a magical bottomless vessel for the tools needed to execute the solution. Mover Smitty’s Trusty Journal projects solutions into the air while the Movers are thinking. 
For all four the props also represent their backgrounds: Durbin was an elementary school teacher, Collins was a journalist and artist, Poche was an architect and Smith holds a degree in English.
“I was actually a full-time fireman,” Smith says. “But, I was looking for creative outlets when Scott Durbin brought me into the project. Initially, that’s what it was for me. Then, it grew into a profession, which has been awesome.”
Both Collins and Poche tell a similar story about Durbin giving the initial push. The four had been floating ideas about creating a show for kids but Durbin pulled the four together to make it something real.
“It’s really a combination of the talents of all four of us,” Durbin says. “I might have started the fire. I just always had this conviction that it was going to be something successful and special. It was something we started for all the right reasons.”
It wasn’t long before all four felt the same way. They quickly began meeting between 9 and midnight after their workdays were over and their duties as husbands and fathers fulfilled. They originally envisioned the project as a TV show, so they wrote a pilot, a treatment and even did research to target age-appropriate concepts.
“We wound up with a stack of papers that was the basis of a TV show,” Poche says. “The music just kind of took off on its own. Then it kind of came full circle when Disney saw us at Jazz Fest and started talking to us about developing a TV show. We actually pulled out that dusty stack of papers and said, ‘We got one.’”
The stack of papers spelled out the show’s concepts and message and has remained the foundation for the series. Through their work with Disney, they have been able to work with curriculum consultants and accessed endless resources to improve upon the ideas that sprung from their imaginations on to those pages and, soon, to your TV screen.
“Having been a teacher for 10 years, I think a lot of children’s programming doesn’t treat kids as socially, mentally and emotionally complex as they are,” says Durbin. “At the same time, it’s the whimsy and the fun that keeps it entertaining. So, that’s the great white whale, to be able to educate and entertain at the same time.”
After spending the last five years performing their music, the group has brought those songs to the show to help keep that balance. By using five of their original songs in each 30-minute episode, the Movers can provide a new brand of educational entertainment. The music has used the sounds of the late 1980s and early ’90s to make it a show that parents and kids can enjoy together.
“I am proud of when our music can exemplify problem-solving skills,” Collins says. “We have recorded over 100 songs. I want our music to be something that the 3-year-old sister, 9-year-old brother, mom and dad can all enjoy. I want our music to be something that reaches the world and stays with kids for life.”
The aptly nicknamed “Juice Box Heroes” became New Orleans’ heroes for their determination to keep their project here in the city. Rather than film season one in a city like Los Angeles that hosts this level of production all the time, the Movers convinced Disney to keep it local. Thanks to a lot of work from the people at Disney, New Orleans was able to prove itself again.
“We did it here because we had gotten so much support,” Poche says. “But we wound up proving that you could do a production of this scale here. This city had the infrastructure and the talent and doing this here helped show that we still do after the storm. Not every city can and I think it’s gone really well here.”
The Imagination Movers TV series will premiere on September 6 at 10 a.m. on the Disney Channel as a part of the morning sequence, Playhouse Disney.

Categories: LL_Feature

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