People to Watch is New Orleans Magazine’s oldest tradition. We define “People to Watch” as mostly new faces who are doing something interesting with their lives that is worthy of your awareness, or in some cases, familiar faces moving in different directions. As always, we concede that there are many other watch-worthy people out there. These are just a sample. We have been doing this for so long that some of the new faces are well-established older faces, but that’s proof as to why they’re watchable. By the way, this year the magazine celebrates its 45th anniversary. That is a lot of watching with a whole lot more ahead of us.
It isn’t unusual in this city to stumble upon an impromptu parade of costumed characters, but there’s something “extraordinary” about the 610 Stompers, a diverse group of men, ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, who perform dance routines while sporting shiny jackets, gold shoes and ironic moustaches.
“We’re brought together by our ongoing desire to entertain the world,” says Brett Patron, a founding member. The group – which boasts hundreds of members – has performed at Mardi Gras parades, Hornets games and on television, and they’ve been a crucial addition to many charitable causes and parties. Everyone wants to be where the Stompers are. Thier presence usually means a good time, despite their relative newness (they formed in 2009).
This year, after performing at the Saints’ home opener, they will gear up for another big adventure: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Though staying sober while dancing occasionally presents a challenge, Patron and the rest of the group take delight in the simple art of having fun.
“We receive satisfaction knowing that we are making people smile, even if just a short while. The look on our fans’ faces is better than any plaque on the wall.”
Rear Admiral Roy Nash
Commander, U.S. Coast Guard, Eighth District
On June 1, 2011, Rear Admiral Roy Nash became the Eighth Coast Guard District Commander, responsible for Coast Guard activities along the Gulf Coast and Western Rivers system. A logical step for the man who previously served as Deputy Unified Area Commander for the Deepwater Horizon Response, coordinating a multi-level incident management organization in carrying out the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response in the “Northern Gulf of Mexico.”
“More than anything I enjoy working with people, particularly with our Coast Guard men and women, and the many partners we have in government and the private sector,” says Nash. “As challenging as this environmental response campaign was, there was a tremendous amount of coordination … and development among the many different professionals who carried out the work.” Currently Nash is visiting and reaching out to those who “contribute to the mission success of our service,” and is looking forward to finding the best ways to apply the Coast Guard’s resources.
Designer, Alicia Zenobia and Autonomous Clothing
For most of us there is a difference between clothes and costumes, but not for fashion designer Alicia Zenobia. “A business suit is as much of a costume as a rabbit suit,” she says. “Clothing is the simplest way for someone to transform themselves instantaneously … Fashion is three-dimensional art in which any person can participate.”
After burning out as a sculptor, she wanted to create something positive, something that “would allow them to become the greatest being” they could.
Zenobia has participated in myriad fashion shows, has a new eponymous website and her designs are sold in the local boutique Hemline. Soon she will be rebranding her womenswear collection eponymously and delegating her Autonomous Clothing label to her menswear, as well as creating “post-apocalyptic manimal costumes” for a local theater production and working with a “very promising new band to create provocative, ethereal and purposeful styles for performances and music videos.”
Anselm v. Seherr-Thoss
VFX Technical Director, Incendii LLC Visual Effects
Anselm von Seherr-Thoss has worked on visual effects for such recent films as Sucker Punch, Robin Hood (the Ridley Scott version), The A-Team, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Avatar. That blockbuster work was all performed at Prime Focus Visual Effects in Los Angeles, where he was technical director.
He has the same job title now, but he now works for Incendii LLC Visual Effects, which generates visual effects “with an emphasis on particle simulation and 3D animation” for movies, television shows and commercials. (He says he moved to New Orleans “for the lady.”)
As a child, von Seherr-Thoss originally wanted to make video games, crediting the hit first-person-shooter game “Doom” as his inspiration. “When I graduated high school, the interest had shifted,” he said, and he asked a “VFX” company for an internship “with no qualifying skills whatsoever.” He got the internship, and hasn’t “left or looked back ever since.”
Athletic Director, University of New Orleans
Originally joining the University of New Orleans as head coach for women’s basketball, Champion had a rocky first couple of years, inheriting a team that had graduated most of its veteran talent. Regardless, she worked through two brutal seasons (with two wins in 2004-’05 and three in ’05-’06) to build a squad that won 14 out of 28 games in the ’08-’09 season.
In April 2010, Champion was named interim athletic director – an office that had seen three replacements within a single year – before her position was made permanent the following October. In her new role she intends to “build our athletic department into a nationally known program.”
Since taking her current office, she has had to weather an NCAA division change (the Privateers are now Division II) but has been bolstered by the reinstatement of athletic scholarships. In the next few years she will be adding women’s golf and men’s and women’s cross country, and longer term seeks to add women’s soccer and football.
Founder, Designer and Chief Gatherer of the Green, REpurposingNOLA
You might not necessarily equate “burlap sack” with “high fashion” – that is, until you meet Traci Claussen, founder of REpurposingNOLA. She infuses social consciousness, environmental awareness and creativity into her designs, and the results are phenomenal. Claussen makes clothing and accessories out of excess fabrics from the community – the aforementioned burlap sack came from PJ’s Coffee & Tea’s roasting plant and was incorporated into a dress. “Our materials are whatever is available locally at the time,” explains Claussen, and while this occasionally presents challenges, she says “unexpected hurdles are simply part of life and business, so you have to roll with the punches.” Long-term goals include implementing micro-communities across the country that focus on local production and materials with proceeds benefiting each community. In the short-term, the company is strategically entering key retailers across the country in major cities. “Our goal was to have five eco-friendly Southern California boutiques that share our ethos by June; we accomplished that,” she says proudly, adding that the next “target cities” include places in Texas and across the South. Claussen says she embraces change and thrives on spontaneity, and her career satisfies her craving for fashion design and wanderlust. “Fashion is constantly evolving, pushing me to stay ahead of the game to design the next hot trend,” she says.
A native of the Gulf South, Stephen Collier has worked or presented in New Mexico, New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas and Louisiana. He is currently curator and co-director of the Good Children Gallery, which he helped found. “There was a serious lack of spaces showing contemporary art in pre-Katrina New Orleans,” he says.
“Several artist friends and I decided to pitch in and open the first artists-run space [Good Children] on St. Claude.”
Collier recently had a solo show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (which opened on White Linen Night) and another show on display at Good Children Gallery. He has an upcoming show at Manifest Projects in Chicago. (He is also in a band called Shadow of the Capricorn, which he describes as “swamp goth.”)
“I am interested in making works that are conceptually driven and that are both smart and dumb at the same time,” says Collier. “Although there is a slight darkness to my work, it is often contradicted by humor.”
Sounds just like New Orleans itself.
David “Dave” Rebeck and Eugenia UhL
Co-Owners and “Ballistas,” Piety St. Sno-balls
The husband-and-wife team of musician Dave Rebeck and photographer Eugenia Uhl has recently opened Piety Street Sno-Balls at 612 Piety St., adjacent to a riverfront park that’s scheduled to open this spring. The stand sits on a property called the Ironworks, owned by the couple’s friend Gilbert Buras; after being used as an actual ironworks, the property was then used by an ornamental cement-casting company before falling into disrepair in the 1980s and losing its roof during Hurricane Katrina.
Rebeck says that, ultimately, he wants to build a core of arts-centered jobs in his neighborhood. “Obviously, opening a food stand is a start in that direction,” he says, “but we are also in the process of creating music events and programs designed for the growing tourism economy of the area.” Rebeck has also helped in the development of the Piety Street Market.
“At first I was against [the stand],” says Uhl, who’s also a photographer, “but I love it now. Every time a customer shows up, I’m happy and excited.” Uhl has contributed by developing tea-based flavors for snowballs, as well as popsicles, floats and her personal favorite, the “soymilk fudgesickle.”
Charles Callan Mary IV and Charlotte McGehee
Co-Owners, Debbie Does Doberge
Take a classic concept, shoehorn it into a burgeoning culinary fad and slap a vaguely pornographic name on the enterprise and you get the curious genius of Debbie Does Doberge. Co-owned by the boyfriend-girlfriend team of Charles Mary IV and Charlotte McGehee, “Debbie” creates eight-layered cupcakes out of the kitchens of Twelve Mile Limit in Mid-City (which they share with Shortall’s BBQ).
The cupcake mongers are both veterans of New Orleans’ food and beverage industry, Mary from Le Foret and McGehee from WINO, where she jokingly referred to herself as a “wine wench,” and where she “sold wine and mopped it up when spilled.”
“Each and every cake is a great accomplishment,” says Mary. “All Debbie’s cakes may not be created equal, but I love them all the same.” “Debbie” will soon be selling her stratified confections – available in many more flavors than their cake-pan predecessors – out of a refurbished 1970 VW bus, the couple’s new “mobile cupcake truck.”
Demetria Christo and Travis Cleaver
Co-Owners, EcoUrban, LLC
In November Demetria Christo and Travis Cleaver will celebrate their fourth anniversary as co-founders and owners of the sustainable landscaping group, EcoUrban, LLC. It was during the wake of Hurricane Katrina that the two friends, who had attended Tulane University together, were motivated to promote an eco-friendly future for their adopted hometown that’s known, among other things, for its lush foliage.
Through native and edible garden design, organic landscape practices, cistern rain-harvest technology and artisan soil production, EcoUrban facilitates adaptation to regional environmental challenges.
“My favorite aspect of my job is taking an overgrown or barren property and turning it into a productive and beautiful outdoor space,” says Cleaver.
While their business may have started small – like many others post-storm – they’ve seen expansions in different areas. “Meeting demand has been a great challenge this year,” says Christo, a self-described urban ecologist who recognizes demand for a multitude of green services. “We’re overhauling our infrastructure to accommodate more projects. It’s been hard to keep up, even during our slow season!”
The pair has worked on both residential and commercial spaces, and recently they even caught the eye of the mayor’s office: “Our greatest accomplishment so far was installing landscaping for Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Inaugural Ball,” says Cleaver.
The upcoming year holds promise as the forward-thinking duo continues with their mission. “We hope to expand our garden soil production throughout the upcoming year,” says Cleaver. “Supporting locally grown food, through home, school and community gardens is one of our biggest priorities.”
Gregor Fox and Sean Gerowin
Chief Financial Officer and Writer/Director, Backyard Shed Films, LLC
Sometimes the hardest part can be finding the right location. Gregor Fox and Sean Gerowin of Backyard Shed Films, LLC, know this from experience. Locating a trailer park for their newest film Trailer Park Jesus, meant scouting “over 60” locations until they “were led to Dude’s Trailer Park in Port Allen,” says Gerowin.
“Filmmaking is a team sport,” says Gerowin, who serves as writer and director. Not only that, but, “filmmaking, for me, is an artistic outlet (and) I feel very lucky to patronize and be a part,” says Fox, who serves as CFO of the company. Fox and Gerowin work closely together to create low-budget films, such as Let’s Rob the Cheese Shop, which received a Silver Medal at the Indie Gathering Film Festival in 2009, though they also have other professions. They do “for-hire” work through Backyard Shed Films, LLC, and hope to begin producing high-budget pictures in the future.
Head Coach, Men’s Basketball, Dillard University
Bernard Griffith worked as a coach, teacher and principal at St. Augustine High School for a quarter of a century before taking his new post at Dillard University. He has also taught and coached at Jesuit High School, Xavier University, Southern University (Baton Rouge), Sarah T. Reed High School and L.B. Landry High School. He has even coached the Dallas Mavericks.
Griffith strives to teach his students and players that “where you start off in life is not where you end up,” and that “excuses are not acceptable.” And neither is simply hoping for success. “A dream without a plan is only a wish,” he says.
The new Dillard coach views education as an investment in the students’ futures, and treasures his students’ stories of success. “It is an amazing experience to talk with and relate to the children you taught and coached 20, 30, 40 years ago,” he says. “They remember the sparks you struck,” and he gets to “witness the stars that they have become.”
As president of TeamHappy.org, Happy Johnson is a social innovator and leader who teaches and prepares children and pre-teens about humanitarian relief, disaster preparedness and coastal restoration.
Johnson, whose biological father died because of gang-related violence and whose mother abused drugs, is clearly no stranger to tragedy, but his compassion for kids in dangerous situations has fueled his mission to improve the world. “I seek to positively impact a greater amount of students and young adults through our Youth Preparedness Campaign and Coastal Restoration Campaign,” he says.
These programs teach children aged 4 to 12 how to prepare for hurricane season; there’s also great emphasis on the importance of reading, financial literacy and sustaining the environment through wetland restoration. “I am grateful and humble for the talents and gifts I have,” says Johnson. “Not that I have everything, but because I try to find good in all things, so my purpose in life is to be an advocate for neglected children, give back to the community and empower youth.” This year, in addition to reaching out to more than 1,000 students through partnerships, Johnson has also published a children’s book, with plans for another one in 2012.
Dean, A.B. Freeman School of Business and
Debra and Rick Rees Professor of Business, Tulane University
Ira Solomon spent over three decades living and working in Illinois, where his most recent post was as the head of the accountancy department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. Having made the long move down Interstate 55, he will now be the dean at Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business.
Solomon considers his greatest administrative accomplishment as being able “to create and implement a new model for university education in accountancy.” In a recent Times-Picayune interview he announced his intention to steer the Freeman school towards a more historical and community-minded approach to teaching business.
Solomon, a proud husband and father of three, looks forward to refining Freeman into a school known for “innovation and excellence in its educational programs, its leading-edge scholarship and its engagement with all facets of society.” He regards higher education as “society’s most effective institution for transforming young people’s lives in ways that prepare them to become full and contributing members of society.”
Creative Director and Tuba Player, Preservation Hall
For Ben Jaffe, creative director of Preservation Hall and tuba player in its eponymous jazz band, music is a raison d’être, not just a career choice.
His parents opened the venerable French Quarter music location in 1961, and Jaffe grew up around the corner. His first music teacher was the late Walter Payton, an iconic jazz bassist alongside whom Jaffe would later perform.
Carrying on the musical torch is one of Jaffe’s goals. “I believe our music makes the world a better place,” he says.
“I want to ensure kids today have the same opportunities I had: to learn from and be mentored by the older generation of New Orleans musicians. New Orleans music isn’t always about the notes – it’s about the way we live, walk and talk. You can’t teach that from a book.” Recently Jaffe has added fusion into his repertoire by having the house band play with the Del McCoury bluegrass band, even making a joint appearance on the David Letterman Show. Jaffe, with tuba in tote, has also backed McCoury on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
Small in size, Preservation Hall is grand in reputation and, like any good party in New Orleans, is always welcoming. “Don’t let the line fool you; we always have room for one more,” says Jaffe. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else but what I’m doing.”
Co-Founder, The New Freret; CostumeDesigner, Loyola University Theatre Arts and Dance Department
New Orleans is a city of streets with character: Bourbon, Frenchmen, Magazine, St. Claude and St. Charles (avenues), Oak and, most recently, Freret. The revitalization of the eight-block stretch of the “new” Freret Street has been due largely to the effort of the Freret Business and Property Owner Association, which now calls itself The New Freret.
Kellie Grengs, a Loyola University professor and Freret neighborhood resident, is one of the three board members of FBPOA; she keeps the board organized and brings in experts to help small business owners.
“Our corridor has been anchored with 15-plus years of blight,” says Grengs. “Once the corridor is stabilized, the surrounding neighborhoods can really come back to life.” The rebirth has begun with Cure bar, Dat Dog, Adolfo Garcia’s restaurants High Hat Café and Ancora and several studio and gallery spaces as well as other retailers and restaurants.
Co-Founder and President, The Receivables Exchange
A belief that businesses need efficient and affordable access to capital in order to thrive in our 21st century economy is what drove Nic Perkin (and his partner and CEO Justin Brownhill) to found The Receivables Exchange. The Exchange “is an online marketplace for working capital where businesses can get the cash they need to thrive, without the constraints and cost imposed by traditional finance options,” Perkin says.
Before launching the Exchange, Perkin was head of Global Business Development at Massive Incorporated, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2006. “I come from New York City, but I’ve been in love with New Orleans since my freshman year at Tulane University,” he says, “It’s my true home and I’m so grateful to play a part in this exciting chapter of the city’s history.” The Exchange is “growing rapidly,” he says, and Perkin expects the trend to continue as they officially launch their Corporate Receivables Program and new Partners initiatives later this year.
Director, Department of Safety and Permits,Taxicab and For Hire Vehicle Bureau
If you’ve recently taken a taxi or for-hire vehicle home from an indulgent night out and never once worried about your safety, you have Malachi Hull, Director of the Department of Safety and Permits, Taxicab and For Hire Vehicle Bureau, to thank. “So many individuals disregard normal safety precautions by getting in the cars with complete strangers,” Hull says. “My favorite part of my job is to know who’s transporting our riding public.” Hull is striving to make our for-hire industry the “best in class.”
“We have an unprecedented amount of major tourist events in the next few years,” Hull says,” so we’re working to shore up and make vast improvements in these industries and to the bureau itself in advance.”
Hull, his wife and their three children moved from Atlanta because he shares our mayor’s commitment to reforming the bureau and for hire industry and he looks forward to implementing the “best in class” disability friendly taxicab (DFT) program, which will provide for hire transportation services for all individuals.
Deputy Mayor for Operations, City of New Orleans
Deputy Mayor Thomas, a native of North Carolina, came to the Big Easy from the Garden State by way of Washington, D.C. In New Jersey, she served as Business Administrator for the City of Newark under Mayor Corey Booker and is largely credited with slashing the city’s budget deficit by over $100 million. In D.C. she worked as a consultant on federal grants. In her new post, Thomas oversees city services.
Feeling like she “was out of the game” for the duration of the year she spent in the private sector, Thomas is eager to jump back into public life. “I felt like I was sitting on the sidelines at one of the most important times in our nation’s history,” she says.
One of her immediate goals is reforming the city’s permitting process in order to “make the city more business-friendly” in order to “spur economic growth.” The city recently received a $4.2 million commitment from one of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charities, and Mayor Landrieu has declared his intentions to commit many of those funds to permitting reforms.
The NOLA Project
A.J. Allegra, artistic director of The NOLA Project, a theater company, knows the ups and downs of succeeding in the art world. “Most theater companies, like garage bands, don’t make it past a year or two,” he muses. But six years after its inception, the NOLA Project has become prevalent on the scene.
After performing sold-out renditions of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Besthoff’s Sculpture Garden, the troupe promised the audience: There will be more Shakespeare. In December they will perform the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet; this month they perform Mark Twain’s Is He Dead?. But the group doesn’t just stick to traditional theater – they are also known for edgy dramas and dark comedies.
Presently, the group’s biggest obstacle is finding space in which to perform. “The closures of Le Petit [Théâtre du Vieux Carré] and Le Chat Noir put a damper on some local theater,” says Allegra. “Losing two iconic stages is very tough. But we’re overcoming the space challenge by finding places such as the Besthoff Sculpture Garden or the Stern Auditorium inside the museum.”
Allegra says that a major component to their sustainability is how well they get along. “We are like a large family that understands each others’ personalities and quirks, and that translates onto the stage. We have all grown to love living and working in New Orleans – we love the audiences and their honest and vocal reactions to our work.”
A fifth-generation New Orleanian, author James Nolan has worked as writer-in-residence at Tulane and Loyola universities and directed the Loyola Writing Institute from 1998 until 2010. He currently teaches writers’ workshops at the Writing Institute at the Arts Council of New Orleans and is releasing a new novel, Higher Ground, in October.
Higher Ground is the second part in what Nolan plans to be a trilogy of books about New Orleans. The first, a collection titled Perpetual Care: Stories, came out in 2008, and the third book (another collection of short stories) is in progress under the working title You Don’t Know Me. Nolan brought back a character, dirty cop Vinnie Panarello, from “Open Mike,” a story in Perpetual Care, to play a major role in Higher Ground.
“New Orleans isn’t only a place but a story we tell ourselves,” says Nolan, who has also taught and written in Spain for a decade. “This story has gotten us through wars, epidemics and storms. Wherever I am, my real home has always been the imagination.”
Artist and Owner, Rebecca Rebouche Studio
Creating art comes naturally to Rebecca Rebouche, artist and owner of her eponymous studio. “Making honest and magical work, collaborating with people and companies that I admire and sharing this work with like-minded people who feel inspired and energized by it,” says Rebouche, is both her dream and her reality. In just the last year she has juried two shows, had her work chosen by national retailer Anthropologie (you might have seen her New Orleans “family tree” painting in their local store) and served as muse for local knitwear line LiaMolly. Also, her spring collection of 40 pieces sold out in less than a week.
In addition, Rebouche recently opened a new showroom on the corner of Dryades and General Taylor streets in an old corner store called “The Beauty Shop,” where she will hold her debut show on Oct. 8. She also looks forward to using her work to give back to her community.
CEO, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation
Since June, Mark Romig has been CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, which is a perfect fit for a born-and-raised New Orleanian (his father, Jerry, is the long-time announcer for the Saints) who feels passionately about the city and its culture. His job, essentially, is to convince tourists to come to New Orleans and experience its varied cultural splendor. But on a local level, he must foster jobs and economic growth, which also depend on the tourism industry.
In the short term, he says, “We are doing that by working collaboratively with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Greater New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association and other hospitality organizations to increase the occupancy levels and general tourism activity.” Romig’s easygoing demeanor and warm smile are assets to his career – he’s at once both engaging and excited about his new role. Looking forward into 2012, Romig says it will be a “banner year” for the city. “From the annual Sugar Bowl and the BCS National Championship to the Final Four, the Bicentennial of Tremé, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Star Spangled Banner/Navy Week, added to our wonderful Mardi Gras, French Quarter Festival, New Orleans Food & Wine Experience …” he continues. “In the meantime,” he says, “Our job will be to continue to market the city nationwide with one voice to the consumer, and make it as easy as ‘1-2-3’ to find us, book us, and stay with us year-round.”
Executive Director, Newcomb College Institute, Tulane University; Newcomb College Endowed Chair; and Professor of Political Science
Executive director of Newcomb College Institute at Tulane University, Sally Kenney’s 34-page curriculum vitae hardly scratches the service of her drive and mission, “I am passionate about women’s equality and helping women achieve their full potential as individuals and by mobilizing together as a group.” She is a professor of political science; has served as a professor of public affairs and law and director of the Center on Women and Public Policy at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesot. She has her Ph.D. from Princeton; has served as a consultant to Congress (including four Congressional reports); has received more than 30 grants and more than 20 honors, awards, fellowships and scholarships; has written three books; and had more than 40 articles and 9 book chapters published. Then there is her nonprofit work, her guest lectures and talks and so much more.
Kenney, who is married to Norman Foster, CFO for the City of New Orleans, is currently completing a book on gender and judging and is looking forward to “ballroom dancing, birding, reading and getting to know the women judges of Louisiana and Newcomb’s alumnae.”
Executive News Director, WWL-TV
A fascination with history brought Bill Siegel, Executive News Director at WWL-TV, to news, “It’s been said that journalism is the first rough draft,” Siegel says. “We get the opportunity to record the events that impact everyone in our community. Also, TV newsrooms are a lot of fun.”
Before moving to New Orleans to work at WWL, Siegel and his wife lived in Milwaukee, Wisc., where he was assistant news director at WISN-TV. “My wife, Claire Stewart, is Australian and the New Orleans climate is a lot more her style than Milwaukee,” he says. And, “we’re excited by the culture and diversity of New Orleans.”
Siegel was “well aware” of WWL’s history and “tradition of excellence and success” before he applied for his current position – one he takes very seriously. He credits his president and general manager, Bud Brown, and his co-workers, for his easy adjustment to the city and looks forward to developing new media initiatives.
Jermaine L. Smith
Development Associate, United Negro College Fund
Jermaine L. Smith moved to New Orleans in 2008 searching for a calling. In May of this year he found it: As Development Associate for the United Negro College Fund, he’s making an impact in Greater New Orleans through research, writing and community building. (He also found another calling and married soon-to-be Dr. Megan Jessica Holt this past July.) In addition, Smith has begun working with numerous local nonprofits as an independent consultant to strengthen their strategies for security funding, applying for 501(c)(3) status and more.
Smith received a proclamation from the city as a founding member of the Asset Building Coalition of Southeast Louisiana, which provides education on financial literacy, as well as tax services, to low-income clients throughout the region. “The program now serves thousands,” Smith says, “and seeing it grow from an idea to an impactful program in just two years has put me in awe of what our community can accomplish.”
Co-Owner, Sno-ball Baby New Orleans and Anchor, WDSU
Camille Whitworth is an assignment reporter and anchor for WDSU; she spends her days dogging sources and then scrambling back to the studio for evening broadcasts. Oh, and she also makes snowballs. She is co-owner of Sno-ball Baby, which – for now – acts as a catering service. “Eventually, I want to have a storefront,” Whitworth says. “I am currently looking for a location.”
A veteran of television news in Kentucky, South Carolina and now Louisiana, Whitworth has “deep New Orleans roots” – her mother, aunts, uncles and cousins all lived (and still live) here.
While her passion runs more to reporting than it does to making snowballs, she recognizes that “being part of a New Orleans tradition is priceless, and seeing the smiles on people’s faces is immeasurable.” Whitworth is currently tinkering with new recipes (including a “stuffed” snowball around a scoop of ice cream) and wants to eventually franchise her business around the South.
Chairman, Turnbull Bakeries
In June, the historic New Orleans-based company, Turnbull Bakeries, best known for its production of the original Melba toast, resumed operation after a year-long shutdown. Started in 1907, the company is quickly moving into the post-Hurricane Katrina renaissance, helmed by Wayne Turnbull, who was introduced to the bakery business by his parents when he was just 19 years old. “I did everything from driving a forklift, loading trucks, learning to bake and, later, inventing machinery and installing production lines,” he recalls. With his well-rounded background, Turnbull says that the best part of his job overseeing the company’s re-invention is the creative aspect of it. “I like inventing machinery, creating processes and creating unique solutions to meet customers’ needs,” he says. “I also like developing people and watching them grow with the company.” Among the people who will be working with him are his two daughters, Katy and Whitney.
The Turnbull label will be marketed in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast region. Along with the continuous production of Melba toast, Turnbull Bakeries will create biscuits. And while baked goods are always enjoyable, the company is also boosting the economy: Turnbull Bakeries plans to create new jobs and provide goods to national private-label accounts.
Head Coach, Men’s Basketball, University of New Orleans
A career basketball coach who also played during his undergraduate days at Aurora University in Illinois, Slessinger was tapped to take over as head coach of men’s basketball at the University of New Orleans from his previous post at Northwestern State University, a job he held for over a decade.
“I am living my childhood dream of being a college basketball coach,” says Slessinger. “It is what I have wanted to do since I was in elementary school.” Besides UNO and Northwestern, Slessinger has also coached at his alma mater, Aurora, as well as Central Michigan University and Northland Pioneer College in Arizona.
“My long-term goal is to help rebuild a basketball program at UNO that competes at a national level,” says Slessinger. He adds that, “The greatest measure of your effect on student-athletes isn’t your season record. It is after their playing career is over and they are in the community and workforce.”
Patrick Van Hoorebeek
Creator and General Manager, Patrick’s Bar Vin
Many may recognize Patrick Van Hoorebeek’s friendly face from his days as a maître d’ at the Bistro at Maison De Ville, where he worked for 18 years before going on to other notable restaurants, including the Rib Room and August.
Over the summer, Van Hoorebeek, who says his favorite thing in life is “meeting people,” opened up Patrick’s Bar Vin on Bienville Street, situated in the French Quarter just steps away from Galatoire’s and other luminary landmarks for the bon vivants of the world. “I want to make this the ultimate libations destination in New Orleans,” he says. The bar is elegant yet unpretentious – much like the Belgian-born Van Hoorebeek himself – and offers small plates to complement the extensive wine list, beer selection and the cocktail menu. Says Van Hoorebeek: “I like to uncork a fine bottle of wine – it turns strangers into friends and friends into family.”