Four candidates remain in the running to be named the next president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

The hiring committee decided on the four during a Thursday meeting after coming up with seven last month, a LEDA spokesperson said. The four will be interviewed by LEDA’s full board at a later date, and the committee will work with the board to determine the next steps in the process to replace retiring president and CEO Gregg Gothreaux.

The four candidates are:

  • Monique Boulet, chief executive officer of the Acadiana Planning Commission.
  • Verdell Hawkins, economic development manager at Gulf Power Company in Pensacola, Florida.
  • Mandi Mitchell, assistant secretary, Louisiana Economic Development, and a Lafayette native.
  • John O’Toole, executive director at Beaufort County (South Carolina) Economic Development Corp.

Candidates no longer in the running are:

  • Larry Holt, COO at Columbia River Economic Development Council in Clark County, Washington.
  • Troy Wayman, president and CEO of One Acadiana
  • Bob Shark, executive director at Fay-Penn Economic Development Council in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

Boulet has led the APC since working 2016 and worked with local governments to establish the agency, which has a $2.4 million budget and 18 employees. Her office has been involved in big projects in Acadiana, including the I-49 Connector, the University Gateway Corridor project, InvestAcadiana Opportunity Zone Initiative, the Less Pay Motel demolition and revitalization project and others. 

"I am honored to be in the final selection of candidates for the LEDA position," Boulet said. "I look forward to visiting with the full LEDA board on my experiences as well as my thoughts on how we move forward as a parish with tremendous assets and even greater potential." 

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Hawkins was named his position in 2018 and manages the Pensacola, Florida-based company's efforts to attract new companies, jobs and additional tax revenue to northwest Florida. He coordinates business retention and expansion efforts within the region and markets the area to international site location consultants, developers and others. 

Mitchell was named assistant secretary in 2015 and manages initiatives and programs related to legislative and congressional relations, community competitiveness, small business services and state economic competitiveness. Before that she was director of governmental affairs and federal programs. 

"I am grateful to the board of directors for the opportunity to continue to engage in this process," Mitchell said. "It would be beyond awesome to be in a position to bring my knowledge, talents, connections and resources to my hometown. Lafayette Parish is truly a unique community that has it all: strong economic base represented by the energy, healthcare, tech, manufacturing, and financial sectors. Lafayette Parish is on an upward trajectory, and LEDA is best positioned to continue to nurture our community’s economic growth in a very intentional way."

O'Toole has been in his position since 2017 and had led an agency that has landed $250 million in capital investments and 943 jobs announced, resulting in an economic impact of $2 million in Beaufort County, according to his resume. 

“Things could be improved and actually built on what’s been done there already,” O’Toole said. “Compared to where I am today, it’s a much larger opportunity. In terms of the industry mix, the sectors it has been trying to attract are one I have worked on here in South Carolina and in my former role with a utility in Connecticut.”

Gothreaux will retire this year after 26 years with the agency. A Louisiana native, he was appointed in July 1995 after beginning his career in the 1980s as an economic developer for Gulf States Utilities in Lake Charles.

The position will pay a salary $250,000 a year plus benefits and indicates the person hired must move to Lafayette within three months of employment.

LEDA operates four business parks across Lafayette Parish, has been active in promoting the completion of Interstate 49 through Lafayette to New Orleans and has been active in attracting businesses to Lafayette, including CGI and Costco.


Email Adam Daigle at adaigle@theadvocate.com.