Yesterday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced six appointments to one of the most coveted boards in all of Louisiana government when he announced a pair of current board members will get new six-year terms and four newcomers would be joining them. As the future direction of LSU always seems to be a topic in which our readers have interest, we thought we’d do a dive into who the appointees are and how they might affect the university between now and the end of their terms in 2024.
The LSU Board of Supervisors has 16 members, one of whom is a student member taken from one of the campuses in the LSU system. Of the other 15, three are at-large members who can be from anywhere in the state, and the rest of the board are representatives from the state’s six congressional districts; two from each one.
The two reappointments to the board both come from the Lake Charles area, though Lee Mallett, from Iowa just east of Lake Charles, is on the board as an at-large member. Here’s his bio from the LSU website…
Chester “Lee” Mallett is a well-established businessman in the Southwest Louisiana, Lake Charles region. He has started numerous companies and currently owns one of only four truss manufacturing plants in the state. He is a true conservative who has been appointed, by Gov. Bobby Jindal, to prominent committee positions. From 2006 to 2009, Lee served on the board of Louisiana’s Citizen Insurance Company. In 2010, Gov. Jindal appointed him to the State License Board of Contractors, where he is still serving to this day.
Not only is Mallett a very well respected businessman, he is also an avid social reformer. One of his greatest achievements is the creation and operation of The Academy of Training Skills or ATS. The ATS is the first pilot program of its kind. Opened in 2008, the ATS houses up to 200 Cadets and is an alternative for individuals who are endangered of going to prison. People, who have non-violent or non-sexual offenses, are given an opportunity to not only surpass prison, but train in a multitude of certified training programs. The ATS is completely self-sufficient and does not receive any public funding. All monies are appropriated through a tuition paid by the cadet or third party. One of the greatest qualities of the ATS is that it provides the necessary path for individuals who are looking for something to help lead them away from prison and become skilled citizens. Since the ATS is an alternative to prison, these people are removed from the tax-payer-based system and placed into the private sector, which helps alleviate the stress on an already stretched correctional system. Originally located in Southwest Louisiana, there are plans to expand the Academy to include Lafayette, Alexandria, Monroe, Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas.
Mallett is not only helping to change individuals’ lives in Louisiana, he is also helping change the state. By creating businesses that support good-paying jobs and give back to the community, and by helping people get out of the revolving door, which is the correctional system,Mallett is a primary example of what an outstanding citizen is capable of achieving.
Mallett was a significant donor to Edwards’ predecessor Bobby Jindal and a contributor to a number of conservative causes – he gave a $25,000 donation to the Louisiana Federation for Children PAC in 2015, for example, which is a school choice outfit, and he also gave $30,000 that year to the David Vitter-supporting Fund For Louisiana’s Future. He’s also given donations to John Kennedy, Jeff Landry and Billy Nungesser, among others. But Mallett has backed Democrats as well. He donated to Kathleen Blanco and also to John Bel Edwards, with a $5,000 contribution to the governor’s campaign fund in 2016.
Mary Werner, the other reappointment to the board, is a bit less surprising. Here’s her bio from the LSU website…
Ms. Werner represents the 3rd Congressional District; her term of service ends June 1, 2018. She is director and vice president of The North American Land Company, LLC and The Sweet Lake Land & Oil Company, LLC.
That might not be a whole lot to go on, but what’s a big deal about Werner is she’s the daughter of Buddy Leach, the former chair of the Louisiana Democrat Party and an old-school political moneybags. Leach was a congressman and even a gubernatorial candidate in 2003; at the time he broke the record for the most money spent per vote gained in any major political race in Louisiana history. Werner has the same political bug as her dad – she ran unsuccessfully for the Public Service Commission in 2016, losing to Mike Francis.
Werner is a pretty partisan Democrat political donor in Louisiana races (Kathleen Blanco, her father, the Louisiana Democrat Party’s PAC, Ray Nagin, $1500 to John Bel Edwards), but we did find one $250 check to Julie Stokes last year.
As for the four new appointments, two come from suburban New Orleans – replacing Stanley Jacobs and Scott Ballard.
Remy Voisin Starns is a natural appointment for Edwards, as he’s a big-money Democrat donor. Among the highlights: $10,000 to Edwards’ campaign, $24,000 to Caroline Fayard’s campaigns, $10,000 to the state Democrat Party PAC. Starns is an attorney in Metairie, and his Instagram says he’s an “LSU Tiger Trial Lawyer Democrat.”
But while Starns is the partisan Democrat of the two, Jay Blossman might be considered more as the opposite. Blossman’s the former chair of the Louisiana Public Service Commission; he held the seat Eric Skrmetta currently holds. He also briefly ran for governor as a Republican in 2003. Blossman is a lawyer in Mandeville and a bit of a political donor; though most of his contributions in Louisiana races have been local to St. Tammany Parish politics he’s given to the state GOP, Billy Nungesser, insurance commissioner Jim Donelon, former public service commissioner Clyde Holloway and Jindal, among others. But Blossman also dropped a $5,000 check on Edwards in December of 2015, after he’d won election.
Edwards is replacing Baton Rouge Business Report publisher Rolfe McCollister on the Board with someone who’s obviously a recommendation from his Commissioner of Administration. Robert Dampf is an attorney in Baton Rouge who does arbitration and mediation, and that work appears to pay pretty well – something we imagine Jay Dardenne is thankful for, as Dampf has been a major contributor to Dardenne’s campaign over the years. We found some $27,500 he’s given to Dardenne’s campaigns since 2003, with a significant amount more coming from members of the Dampf family. Dampf is also a contributor to LABI’s West PAC, and he gave a $500 donation to Jindal back in 2003. But you’ll also find a $5,000 contribution to Edwards last year.
And the final new Board member Edwards appointed yesterday is B. Wayne Brown, an engineer and chairman of the board of Brown Builders in Shreveport, who replaces former Shreveport congressman Jim McCrery. Here’s his company bio…
Wayne Brown grew up in a family business started by his father, in 1955. In 1971, Wayne joined his father and brother to found Brown Builders. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board. He is an active member of the local chapter of the Associated General Contractors of which he is a past President. Wayne served asVice President of the Bossier Chamber Board and on the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation Board for over twenty years, including a term as Chairman. He is a member of both the Shreveport/Bossier and Committee of 100 and the Louisiana Committee of 100. Wayne is currently a member of the Louisiana Engineering Society, American Society of Civil Engineers and has served on many community boards for non-profit organizations and churches. Wayne has been honored as one of the Small Businessman of the Year (1996) by the Bossier Chamber of Commerce, TopTen Small Business People by the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, and both he and Brown Builders were selected as finalist for the 1997 Louisiana Entrepreneur of the Year.
Brown is a big booster of John Bel Edwards, having given $25,000 to the governor before and after the 2015 election, but he’s also a major donor to Edwards’ close ally Foster Campbell – he’s given just under $13,000 to Campbell’s campaigns. Brown was a Kathleen Blanco donor as well, and he’s also given money to Jindal and John Kennedy. He’s mostly a Democrat contributor; in federal races he’s given just under $7,000 to Mary Landrieu, he gave $3,000 to Charlie Melancon, he’s given to Cedric Richmond, unsuccessful Democrat congressional candidates Paul Carmouche and David Melville, Chris John and John Breaux. Brown backed Robbie Gatti in the 2017 special election for the Louisiana House seat won by Raymond Crews, and he was a frequent small donor to McCrery’s congressional races.
So those are the new board appointments. Some are mostly Republican political players, others are mostly Democrats, but they have one thing in common – they’ve all anted up with Edwards’ campaign. Whether some or most would be on board with items LSU observers have been kicking around for a while, like changes in positions such as F. King Alexander as the system president or Joe Alleva as LSU’s athletic director we have no idea. That’s something to be seen when these new members take their positions at the next board meeting.