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The Livingston Parish Chamber announced the 2019 recipients of the Women’s Leadership Awards on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, at the Women’s Leadership Event. The awards were presented to six women who live, work or volunteer in Livingston Parish and have exhibited excellence in their area of expertise and paved the way for the success of other women, including, from left, Melissa Ott, Pelican State Credit Union; Lisa Roache, CEO, Gainey's Concrete Products; Lizette Leader, Northshore Technical Community College; Sommer Purvis, Livingston Parish Public Schools; Lynda Gardiner, Primerica; and Erica Ard, Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office.

DENHAM SPRINGS — The Livingston Parish Chamber announced the 2019 recipients of the Women’s Leadership Awards on Sept. 20 at the Women’s Leadership Event.

The awards rounded out an event with three speakers, Judge Zoey Waguespack, Mari Ann Callais and Wendy Rodrigue, who moved attendees to laughter and tears, a news release said.

The awards were presented to six women who live, work or volunteer in Livingston Parish and have exhibited excellence in their area of expertise and paved the way for the success of other women. They include:

Erica Ard - Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office

Ard has been in her position for over 18 years. In 2012, she took the lead on the Christmas Crusade, which provides gifts for children in need in Livingston Parish ages 12 and under. Through that program, in 2018, 1,393 children from 645 Livingston Parish families were served. She said the ultimate reward is when a family that is helped, after getting back on its feet, comes back and volunteers to help others through this program.

Lynda Gardiner – Primerica

Gardiner's work with her former employer as the community involvement coordinator allowed her to engage in numerous community projects. She was recognized as an associate of the year with the company. In her current company, she was promoted to district leader within three months of joining the team.

For her community efforts, she has been engaged in Keep Livingston Beautiful for 18 years. She also serves on the Denham Springs Main Street Board and on the Livingston Parish Chamber’s Education Committee.

Lizette Leader - Northshore Technical Community College

In Leader's position, she had the opportunity to influence programs that helps to shape the future of the communities where Northshore Technical Community College is located. She has been able to develop programs and provide services that enhance the educational experience in Livingston Parish.

She is involved in her church’s youth ministry. Informally, she mentors people every day.

Melissa Ott – Pelican State Credit Union

In 2000, Ott started with Pelican doing clerical tasks, then administrative tasks where she worked with the CEO, vice president and board of directors. Those interactions ignited her passion and she held positions as the accounting manager, marketing, financial and outreach and business development departments, and grew into her position as CFO. She worked with the Denham Springs Merchants Association to grow her business presence by providing volunteers for downtown events.

Sommer Purvis – Livingston Parish Public Schools

Purvis' implementation of new breakfast models to students increased participation, the highest participation percentage increase in the state, and revenue for the Child Nutrition Programs through the school system. She also initiated a joint venture to provide after school meals, Feeding Young Minds, that has served 8,000 meals to date. She also volunteers at the program and through her church where she serves on event planning committees.

Lisa Roache - CEO, Gainey's Concrete Products

Roache's career began abruptly when she was asked to take on the role of CEO following the sudden death of her father, Gainey's founder. At 24 years old, with little experience in the business, she took advantage of every educational opportunity to learn about business, construction and the concrete industry. Since 1994 she has grown the business to 100 employees. Among those employees are a higher-than-industry average number of women who she encourages to not be a victim of life but to take responsibility for both good and bad. 

Her community involvement includes sponsoring TARC’s Tickfaw River Regatta, as well as Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, collecting and donating toys to the Town of Albany for Christmas, local school programs and donating time and resources there. She is involved in her church and more.