Mandi Mitchell appointed head of Lafayette Economic Development Authority
Mandi Mitchell, Louisiana’s assistant secretary for economic development, will be the new head of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority after the organization’s board of commissioners vote on Thursday.
The board unanimously chose Mitchell as their new CEO following a nationwide search. Gregg Gothreaux, who led LEDA for 26 years, announced in June that he would be retire this year.
Mitchell will be the first woman to lead the organization, said Ramesh Kolluru, vice president of the board and vice president of research, innovation and economic development at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“Mandi’s superior knowledge of economic development policy and her connections to Baton Rouge are, I think, factors that have helped her cross the finish line, and we couldn’t be happier,” said Kolluru. “We have our first female President and CEO, a woman of color, a woman of great achievement, an extremely analytical woman, who has worked under two different administrations in Baton Rouge – Republican and Democrat – with significant accomplishments.
“This should bode well for the organization and its leadership of the organization. We couldn’t be more excited
The board of directors voted unanimously to enter into an executive session to discuss the candidates before the vote. The council discussed the candidates for about an hour before proceeding to the vote in open session.
Mitchell has served as Assistant Secretary to DEL since July 2015 and was previously the Department’s Director of Government Affairs and Federal Programs. Before joining LED, she managed Mandi Mitchell LLC, in Lafayette from 2009 to 2012. She is a certified economic developer.
Mitchell also worked for Harris, DeVille and Associates from 2011 to 2012. She worked for many other companies in South Louisiana including AT&T, Southern Strategy Group and BellSouth Telecommunications Inc.
The Council of Commissioners chose Mitchell from among a pool of finalists which also included Acadiana Planning Commission chief Monique Boulet, Northwest Florida Economic Development Director Verdell Hawkins and South Carolina Economic Development Director John O’Toole.
Kolluru said the local candidates – Mitchell and Boulet – had a head start, as they already had the connections and knowledge of Acadiana life. Both knew the culture, way of life and priorities of the region, he said.
“The external candidates have done very well for themselves, but it would obviously take some time, as in any situation, to take root,” Kolluru said. “But we also felt that we had two very strong internal candidates who didn’t need training wheels, who wouldn’t take long to get on the runway and take off.”
The Board of Commissioners is made up of local business and economic development leaders, including Mike Guidroz of RR Company of America, Kolluru of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette lawyer Frank Neuner and Chris Arsement of Arsement, Redd and Morella, among others.
In July, LEDA had seven applications still under review for the position, including Troy Wayman, President and CEO of One Acadiana, Larry Holt, COO of the Economic Development Board of Columbia River (Washington), and Bob Shark, Executive Director of the Economic Development Board by Fay-Penn (Pennsylvania).
Gothreaux has overseen initiatives over the past 26 years to drive economic growth and stability in Lafayette and the Acadiana region, primarily by retaining and attracting new businesses.
He received the Business of Hall Fame Laureate Award from Junior Achievement of Acadiana in 2019. He also received the Richard E. Baudoin Jr. Friend of Business Award, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Leadership Institute of Acadiana, the Lafayette Rotary Public Service Vocational Award, and the Pan-Hellenic Council Greek Excellence Award for Theta Xi from LSU.
Gothreaux chaired the Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association and was a member of the board of directors of the Southern Economic Development Council. He has also served on the board of directors of other Acadian organizations, such as Moncus Park and One Acadiana.