We covered most of the details in our piece on this subject a couple of weeks ago, but today was the meeting of the full board of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the vote went the way of the prospective nominee for the job – former Bobby Jindal aide Stephen Waguespack.
The board of directors for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry has named Stephen Waguespack as the organization’s next president. Waguespack will take over for retiring LABI President Dan Juneau on Sept. 16. The appointment means he will leave his job as special counsel with the Jones Walker law firm, which he took last year after serving six years in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, departing as chief of staff. “I’m very excited, humbled and honored,” Waguespack says of his appointment. “LABI is a great organization with a great reputation and history, and I’m really looking forward to getting to work.” Jay Lapeyre, chair of LABI’s search committee, says Waguespack “is exceptionally talented and well-qualified to lead LABI and further advance our unique mission.”
There will be a relatively intense amount of pressure on Waguespack to show that under his leadership LABI will remain an independent voice for the business community at the state capitol and not, as has been alleged by many of the critics out there, a captive of the governor’s.
There is reason to believe he’ll do that. Waguespack is, by all measure, a very smart guy. And Jindal will be Louisiana’s governor only for the next two years and change, after which his level of influence over state politics and policy will wane greatly. To position LABI as a Jindal poodle threatens that organization’s credibility at a time when a number of organizations with more full-spectrum conservative orientation are beginning to ramp up operations in the state – one example being Americans for Prosperity, which reportedly is preparing to greatly increase its Louisiana presence – and potentially compete with LABI for the attention of and influence with the state’s legislators.
Waguespack is going to have a difficult time navigating that competition and building a perception of independence – with the membership of the organization hanging in the balance. Some LABI members will depart upon this news, but others might join if he’s seen as doing a good job.
Either way, times are changing at LABI, and the Louisiana political landscape may be changing with it.