Local Innovators Contemplate Past Efforts, Look Forward
Community leaders’ visions include citizen involvement, downtown development
Ah, finally. This week means freezing temperatures and a return to routine as the new year begins. We all drive to work (and the gym) with our best intentions, including Acadiana’s local leaders in business, government, and music.
Here, trailblazers reflect on Acadiana’s last year, their professional and personal accomplishments, and note their aspirations and hopes for 2018.
One Acadiana Vice President of Governmental Affairs & Communications Anita Begnaud said 2017, like all years, was filled with challenges and opportunities but was a year of growth.
“As I reflect on the year, I am reminded of a number of times our community came together to make the lives of our families, neighbors, friends, and colleagues better and brighter. From continued recovery from flooding experienced in August 2016 and again in 2017, a valiant attempt to raise revenue for permanent classrooms for students in public schools across Lafayette Parish, game-changing investment in our quality of life through Moncus Park and efforts like the CREATE initiative, to recruiting another talented and passionate professional to Acadiana to lead our economic development and business advocacy efforts, I am proud to be a part of such a resilient and forward-thinking community."
This year, Begnaud is hopeful for growth and development in all nine parishes in Acadiana. She’s looking forward to the arrival of One Acadiana’s new CEO and president, Troy Wayman, who will take on the position Executive Vice President of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Jason El Koubi held until last summer. Wayman’s focus will be working with the economic development and business communities to attract investment to Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Jeff Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Vermilion parishes.
“Troy is an energetic and proven leader the business community is looking forward to partnering with to making Acadiana one of the most sought-after places in the South for emerging businesses and professional talent,” said Begnaud.
Every year, Executive Director for the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs Jolan Jolivette prays and proclaims that this year will be his year. If it isn’t, he makes it so through hard work. Jolivette said he started 2017 energized, focused, and ready to get things done. Last year, he worked on increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and having “competitive integrated employment” for those individuals as well.
“I traveled the state talking with families, agencies, businesses, advocates, and so many others to talk about employment, and we are starting to see that hard work come to fruition. We also got a major bipartisan criminal justice reform package this year, which is amazing.”
Whether tutoring or attending festivals, Jolivette said he likes to be very active in the community. He hosted and held court in many events, including events for the Democratic Parish Executive Committee and the Elephant Room at Cite’ des Arts. He helped raise money for Lafayette Parish schools as a member of the LEF REPROM Court and began serving on his first governing board as a member of the Lafayette Library Board of Control.
Jolivette said he was excited to see others making positive impacts in their communities, whether it was holding forums, meetings, fundraisers, voter registration drives, or volunteering.
“It was really encouraging to see people work together to achieve their goals. That’s what I want to see more of in Acadiana in 2018. 2017 has been a challenging year for our state especially with the devastating weather and political climate, but there is so much that unites us than divides us. I know we can all agree crawfish, boudin, and gumbo is amazing, but I digress.
“I look forward to the new year to see what obstacles I will overcome, what accomplishments I will achieve, and how I can best help others to see their potential and strive for greatness. A wise woman once told me, 'You gotta keep on keeping on,' and that is exactly what I’m going to do.”
A man of many talents, multi-instrumentalist, carpenter, and landlord Wilson Savoy said 2017 brought great things to downtown Lafayette, including new music venues such as gourmet hot dog restaurant and bar Dat Dog and the upcoming Rock ’n Bowl, which reinforces a strong potential for more bands to play. However, Savoy stated the number of new venues seems out of proportion to the audience attendance, which seems to have dwindled in size, he said.
“My dream for Lafayette for 2018 would be to cut the red tape and raise the funds needed to convert the hideous Federal Building United State Courthouse on Jefferson to much needed downtown living spaces, such as apartments and condos, with shops on the ground level and even a small grocery store,” Savoy said.
“There is such potential to improve downtown with the Rock ’n Bowl next door, and I dream to see Lafayette Downtown with tourists walking the streets at daytime, with actual places to go and window shop, instead of bar after raunchy bar after bar.”