2022 LA Disaster Recovery Conference

Louisiana Disaster Recovery Conference: A Time of Hope and Renewal

Event held March 23, 2022

2022 Conference Highlights

COnference Overview

We're excited that our inaugural Louisiana Disaster Recovery Conference was held Wednesday, March 23, 2022, from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, virtually by Zoom.

The conference brought together the business community, individuals, non-profit organizations, healthcare providers, educators, church leaders, counselors, emergency management specialists, elected and government officials, support agencies, those needing employment assistance, families, and others for a day focused on building a resilient community in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and for other disasters. It was a time of hope, restoration, and renewal.

With a range of topics, participants were able to tune in for the full day or pick and choose sessions that most resonated with them.

By bringing a diverse group of people together from across the state and industries, the conference created a space for open dialogue on disaster recovery that covered a wide range of topic areas, including business, non-profit, education, faith-based, healthcare, workforce, social and human services, emergency management, and more.

This fully virtual educational experience welcomed national, state, and local speakers to share advice and real stories of loss and disaster recovery through a variety of industries.

This LA Disaster Recovery Conference funded by a LA Department of Revenue nonprofit grant includes collaboration with the Southwest LA Recovery Project for Small Businesses, Workers, and Families mainly funded by the United Way of Southwest LA.

nonprofit Thank you from Conference Director graphic 4.5.22

Click below to meet the speakers, see the schedule, review the Program, and complete the registration form to view the conference recordings!

Project Focus & Funder

The Louisiana Nonprofit & Small Business Assistance Program grant project for Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions is entitled The Southwest Louisiana Education and Employment Assistance COVID Recovery Project (SWLA Ed & Employment Assistance Recovery Project). The LA Department of Revenue provided the grant funds for this project to provide educational assistance to individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Focus is on developing educational and employment assistance programming that can provide clients and participants with a comprehensive view of how to improve life (personal, business, workforce, other) when dealing with the COVID pandemic and other disasters. The featured educational event is our LA Disaster Recovery Conference hosted virtually.

Recording Registration

Because we were so thrilled with our LA Disaster Recovery Conference on March 23, 2022, we want to share the video recordings of each speaker and session with you! If you would like free access to review the video recordings of each Conference session, please click on the Watch Video Recording button below. This will connect you to a form to fill out to receive the link to the recordings. You can also view the Conference Program.

Meet our

Conference Speakers

During the conference we heard from speakers of a variety of backgrounds, including directors, doctors, educators, consultants, government representatives, emergency managers, coaches, chefs, musicians, small business owners, and more.

Mickey Smith, Jr.
Mickey Smith, Jr.
Grammy Music Educator Award recipient, Motivational Speaker, Author, and Musician

EDUCA-TAINER Mickey Smith Jr. is a GRAMMY Music Educator Award Recipient that hails from a forgotten community in the Bayou State of Louisiana and now stands on phenomenal stages encouraging educators to SEE THE SOUND & KEEP ON GOING. Mickey is acclaimed international speaker, saxophonist, author, and master development coach for elementary and middle school band directors as well as a self-management-strategist for educators. Mickey is committed to encouraging and equipping all educators with the tools to Discover Their Sound of significance and Keep On Going with resilience to create a SOUND180 days of school. Smith specializes in motivational keynotes and transformative professional development training sessions for both corporate and educational clients who are ready to engage, educate, and elevate every audience member to excellence. Whether the message is being shared in a School District, a Conference, In-Person or Virtually, Smith believes that everyone has a “sound” (a significance) that has the power to resonate with others and create a shift in the thoughts and perspectives of our next and best. Mickey’s motivational mixture of music & message teaches people how to reach people with consistency, intention, and strategy.

Stephen Waguespack
Stephen Waguespack
President of Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI)

Stephen Waguespack is the President and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). As the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturer’s association, LABI is the largest business advocacy group, representing more than 2,200 business members and 324,000 employees. With over two decades of experience in federal and state politics, Stephen has earned a reputation as an active voice for reform policy in Louisiana. In addition to numerous personal outreach efforts, he writes a weekly political column that runs in publications throughout the state. Before joining LABI, Stephen served as a member of the State Board of Education and as a senior advisor to former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Prior to that, he spent 10 years working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Stephen is a Louisiana native and holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University as well as a law degree from The Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Marc DeCourcey
Marc DeCourcey
Sr. VP of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Marc DeCourcey is senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and leads its Corporate Citizenship Center (CCC), which serves as a leading resource for businesses dedicated to making a difference. The Center works with businesses to tackle the toughest issues affecting society in the areas of community improvement, disaster resilience, economic empowerment, education, environment, and health. Through interactive and informative events with industry leaders, original research, a digital and media network, and the resources and reach of the Foundation, CCC is a powerful corporate citizenship partner.

DeCourcey has 30 years of experience in public policy leadership, spanning the executive and congressional branches of the U.S. government as well as the nonprofit sector.

Previously, DeCourcey held several senior positions at the American Red Cross (ARC)—including chief of staff in the president and CEO’s office. There he implemented strategic initiatives, directed day-to-day operations, and represented the organization to major stakeholders across government, corporate, and nonprofit sectors.

He also served as vice president for strategic partnerships and was ARC’s senior director of federal government relations and partnerships, serving as the liaison to the White House, Cabinet departments, and other federal agencies. Earlier, DeCourcey was chief of staff in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education.

A native of Massachusetts, DeCourcey ran for state representative immediately after graduating from Providence College. After narrowly losing the race, he was hired to work in Gov. Bill Weld’s (R-MA) administration. He then managed successful congressional campaigns and worked on Capitol Hill for former Reps. Peter Blute (R-MA) and John Kasich (R-OH). In addition, he served as executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party.

DeCourcey has a long history of community service and has been active on numerous civic and philanthropic boards. He was appointed to be a U.S. National Commissioner for UNESCO and named to the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. He serves as a guest lecturer at the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility at Johns Hopkins University. He’s also been named No. 50 in Ethisphere’s 100 Most Ethical People in Business. He and his wife have three children.

Dr. John Noble, Jr
Dr. John Noble, Jr
Orthopaedic Surgeon & Entrepreneur

Dr. John Noble is an orthopaedic surgeon and real estate developer in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is also his hometown. He earned an undergraduate degree at McNeese State University and his Medical Degree from Louisiana State University Medical School in New Orleans. Dr. Noble completed an Orthopaedic Residency at LSU Medical Center, also in New Orleans, and a Fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Dr. Noble has 25 years of private practice experience and has been with the Center for Orthopaedics since 2000. His practice is now focused exclusively on sports medicine and joint replacement. Dr. Noble is actively involved in orthopaedic research projects involving hip and knee replacement. He is also involved in patient and physician advocacy and has served in multiple leadership roles in organizations at the state and regional level throughout his career. Currently, Dr. Noble holds the position of President Elect on the board of the Louisiana State Medical Society and serves on the board of the Alliance for Positive Growth. One of Dr. Noble’s passions is real estate development. He is the founder and president of Noble Development and the managing partner of The Villages of Imperial Pointe.

Kendra Lewis
Kendra Lewis
Teacher & Instructional Coach

Detroit native, Kendra Lewis, is a wife and God-mother of two amazing children. Lewis holds a B.S. in Business Administration and a M.A. in Early Childhood Education. She is a proven educator with 11+ years of educational experience, now serving as an Instructional Coach with the Rapides Parish School District. Previously, she was a part of a turnaround effort that led to a low performing school increasing their performance score by 23 points in just two years. As a result, the school received an A for growth from the Department of Education. Lewis is the Founder and President of The TRIAGE Restorative Ministries, a deliverance and healing ministry. Additionally, she is the Vice Chair-lady of Re//DEFINED, a social impact portfolio that invests in educational and community development ventures. Additionally, Lewis is founding partner of The SOAR Health Network, a state licensed healthcare network that provides behavioral health services and support to students and families.

Outside of education and business, Lewis has a passion for writing, which led to the publishing of two books: Butterfly Whispers (2017) and Committed to Consistency: A 21 Day Challenge and Devotional (2020). Butterfly Whispers is a collection of poems that takes readers on her journey to transformation, as she tackles love and relationships, self-esteem, guilt, grief, and purpose. Committed to Consistency: A 21 Day Challenge and Devotional provides faith based tools for success when working toward a personal goal, allowing her readers to experience her obstacles and victories while becoming committed and consistent.

Mike Beer
Mike Beer
CEO of Calcasieu Area Council Boy Scouts of America

Michael “Mike” Beer has worked for the Boy Scouts of America for over 20 years, in which he has moved 13 times throughout 3 states, including Florida and Georgia prior to moving to Lake Charles in February of 2015.  In his career he has helped raise over $60 million dollars and has led his area or been near the top in the country in membership growth and expanding the Scouting program for most of his career.  His mantra in life is to follow the Cub Scout Motto of “Do Your Best” and live by the Golden Rule.

He may be our “Big Boy Scout”, but Mike can be seen jumping-in serving many segments and roles throughout our community.  In addition to volunteering in Scout Troops in Sulphur and in Westlake, he is the President of the Greater Lake Charles Rotary Club, outgoing President of the Lake Charles Symphony, serves on the board for the West Cal Chamber of Commerce as the Events Chair and serves in countless other organizations and causes, including his church.

Mike lives in the Edgemont neighborhood in Lake Charles and has 2 children: Trinity, who recently graduated from Sulphur High School, and Mikey, who is an 8th grader at Maplewood Middle School.

Dr. Maureen Orey
Dr. Maureen Orey
Management Consultant & Professor

Dr. Maureen Orey is the CEO of Workplace Learning and Performance Group, a management consulting and training firm. She is certified in Servant Leadership from the San Diego Leadership Institute, and is a certified facilitator of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Effective Project Management and Crucial Conversations. She is an author and stand-up comic.

Maureen has been recognized as “Outstanding Instructor of the Year” by SDSU’s College of Extended Studies, and the WLP Group was Finalist for Excellence in Customer service with the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Mo is also an adjunct professor at USCD Rady School of Management, teaching others how to “Lead from the Middle”.

Her award winning Doctoral research on the Career Benefits and ROI of Volunteer Leadership was recognized at a global event by the Association for Talent Development.

Dr. Orey is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP), and was a Pilot Pioneer for that certification with the Association for Talent Development.

Dr. Orey holds a M. Ed from the University of San Diego, a B.A in Psychology from San Diego State University, and recently completed her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership.

Dr. Brian Rash
Dr. Brian Rash
FranU Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Brian Rash assumed the role of the Dean for the School of Arts & Sciences in July 2015 and as of August 2021 is serving as Acting Dean of the School of Health Professions. He received his B.S. in Microbiology from Bowling Green State University in 2000 and Ph.D.in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University in 2004. He joined FranU (formerly Our Lady of the Lake College) as a member of the biology faculty in 2006. In 2008 he was promoted to serve as director of the University’s biology pre-medical program until 2014. He was promoted to the rank of Full Professor in August 2014. In his current role, his primary responsibilities include leadership and oversight for 13 academic degree programs at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master and doctorate levels. He has also led various projects tied to facilities planning, faculty development, accreditation compliance, mission promotion and grant writing and authored numerous scholarly activities in environmental microbiology as well as the scholarship of service-learning and team-based learning. Dr. Rash also serves as an on-site reviewer for the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

Dr. David LaFargue
Dr. David LaFargue
SOWELA Executive Director of Workforce Solutions

Dr. David LaFargue is the Executive Director for Workforce Solutions at SOWELA Technical Community College. He is charged with customized training, talent development, and creating solutions to meet the needs for Louisiana’s workforce. Dr. LaFargue previously served as the LaSTEM and Cybersecurity Program Administrator at the Louisiana Board of Regents. He was responsible for day-to-day operations of the LaSTEM Advisory Council and the Cybersecurity Education Management Council along with Louisiana’s STEM and Cybersecurity alignment, fundraising, marketing, and strategic planning.

Dr. LaFargue began his career in the industrial field spanning ten years while advancing within petrochemical operations, project management, analytics, quality control, and training. He later transitioned to Louisiana’s higher education system and taught as a faculty member for approximately six years. Dr. LaFargue later served in administrative roles as Department Chair and Dean for industrial programs spread over multiple districts in southwest Louisiana. This role led to responsibilities serving areas of supervision, curriculum oversight, program creation, facility design and workflow, training equipment procurement, creating and sustaining stakeholder partnerships, and fundraising. He now serves at the Executive Director for Workforce Solutions at SOWELA Technical Community College. Dr. LaFargue’s work experience spans approximately 22 years building relationships and partnerships among businesses, educational stakeholders, and community-minded citizens throughout Louisiana and beyond.

Dr. LaFargue earned a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology, a Master’s degree in Management and Leadership, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in higher education. His research focuses on post-secondary students in STEM fields using augmented and virtual reality as tools for learning.

Rita Fields
Rita Fields
Restaurant Owner & Chef

Chef Rita Fields is the owner of Rita’s Family Creole Kitchen. Her love of cooking was instilled at a very early age, as she began to learn to cook from her grandmother when she was only 5 years old. The restaurant was originally located in Cameron Parish and was destroyed by Hurricane Laura in August 2020. She bought a food truck and used that to feed the homeless and military for free in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Now the restaurant has reopened in Lake Charles. COVID-19 has slowed business but has not stopped it. Rita and her husband Joe now own 3 food trucks. Rita is still featured on Carnival Eats on the Cooking Channel of Food Network. Through it all, Rita has held firm to her faith and believes God is the reason for her success.

Patricia Jones
Patricia Jones
Executive Director Allen Council on Aging

Resident of Oakdale; widowed, was married for 64 years; five children, nine grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and now a great great grandmother to a precious baby girl.

Family owned Printing Plant and for 20 years owner, publisher of Oakdale Journal; Previously Patient Representative and Seniors Advisor for Oakdale Community Hospital; Former President of the Oakdale Area Chamber of Commerce; Member of the Elizabeth-Oakdale Industrial Development Board.

I have been president of several local and state organizations; editor of several state organizational magazines; it is my privilege to have been awarded a number of wonderful awards; I represented the State of Louisiana as Outstanding Older Worker in Washington, D.C., was chairman of the Green Thumb (older workers organizations) State Board of Directors and attended the President’s White House Conference on Aging twice as Louisiana’s delegate; received the Louisiana Business and Professional Women’s Organization Nike Award; Allen Parish Sheriff’s Civilian Award; and The Oakdale Chamber of Commerce Civic Service Award; plus some other within the network. Latest award was People’s Health, a state insurance organization selected me as December 2020 Champion and I was virtually presented at a New Orleans Saints football game and presented in person in December of 2021.

I love working in human service and being hands on with clients. I truly adore living in a small town Oakdale and Allen Parish, knowing everyone and being able to work to better the community. Life is a joy and a lesson learned along the way “you only get out of something what you put into it” – heart and soul.

Julie Este-McDonald
Julie Este-McDonald
Licensed Professional Counselor

Julie Este-McDonald was born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She attended Xavier University of Louisiana and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Chemistry and a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She also has a post-graduate certification in Pastoral Counseling from Liberty University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the states of Louisiana and Texas. She has worked as a counselor, grant manager, an adjunct Psychology instructor at a junior college, and most recently as the Founder, President, and Executive Director of Salt and Light Collaborative, Inc., a nonprofit counseling agency focusing on Building up people, Building up communities, and Backing up faith-based organizations through counseling, life coaching, workshops, and consulting. She has presented at the Louisiana Counseling Association yearly conference on topics such as trauma, race, racism and mental health, and spirituality and mental health. She also recently became a certified Zumba instructor, because why not? Julie has been married to her husband Jorge for 19 years and has three boys: Mateo (16), Carlos (13), and Mauricio (10). The family also has a new fur baby, Koda, who Julie is preparing to be a therapy dog.

Rev. Jody Robert
Rev. Jody Robert
Unite Us SWLA Community Engagement Manager

Jody Robert, M.Div., currently works at Unite Us as the Community Engagement Manager for Southwest Louisiana. Also, he is a part-time Certified Professional Coach and Chaplain. He provides public speaking services for churches, civic organizations, and healthcare providers throughout South Louisiana.

Jody is a proactive professional with substantial success as a manager, marketer, chaplain, and minister in the geriatric rehabilitation, home health, hospice, and nonprofit industries. Prior to his healthcare career he served as a Senior Pastor for 10 years and is a licensed and ordained minister. He graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX, 1991, with a Master of Divinity degree. Jody obtained his BA degree in Liberal Arts from McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA.

Dr. Cathy Denison-Robert
Dr. Cathy Denison-Robert
Executive Director & Business Consultant

Dr. Cathy Denison-Robert, MBA is the Director of the 2022 Louisiana Disaster Recovery Conference: A Time of Hope and Renewal and the Executive Director of Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions, Inc. Since May 2021, Cathy has led the Southwest LA Recovery Project for Small Businesses, Workers, and Families. Her passion is to offer a unique, comprehensive approach to disaster recovery.

Cathy has experienced firsthand the tremendous need that her 501(c)(3) non-profit organization strives to address, having survived multiple natural disasters since 2005 in LA and along the Gulf Coast. In 2005, she lost her home and small business in Hurricane Rita in Southwest LA. Since then, she has worked many disasters helping small businesses, families, and others impacted by disaster. Her family faced staggering loss from Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020 in Southwest LA. Cathy believes these disaster recovery programs are her calling and it is her heart to serve those most in need.

As a business consultant, coach, trainer, small business owner, university professor, project manager, grants specialist, non-profit Executive Director, and servant leader, Cathy has worked with businesses, non-profit organizations, and aspiring entrepreneurs for over 20 years. She is a mentor, support group facilitator, and small group leader. Much of her disaster recovery experience started from her own business and personal loss.

She was Associate Professor and Director of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Program at a faith-based private university in LA. She enjoys teaching, mentoring, and leading students in Business, Entrepreneurship, Management, Marketing, Health Administration, and Transformational Entrepreneurship courses. She is an Adjunct Faculty member at two universities. Her favorite university work is to help students to develop real business projects that serve community partner and non-profit organizations while teaching the students workplace and life skills.

Cathy’s degrees include Post-Doctorate in Management and Marketing from the University of Florida; Ph.D. and M.S. in Vocational Education (Training and HR Ed.) from LSU; and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) and B.S. in Agribusiness from McNeese State University.

Cathy enjoys leading and serving in educational and ministry activities with her husband, Jody. Cathy is proud of her son, Devin who works as a Quality and Industrial Engineer. She was raised on a family farm in Southwest LA where she learned about hard work and love for serving others as exemplified by her parents and five sisters.

Dr. Melissa Thompson
Dr. Melissa Thompson
Consultant & Coach

Dr. Melissa Thompson is a consultant and coach at Success Labs with extensive experience in interpersonal communication, public speaking, and talent development. She works with individuals and companies to grow leaders, build teams, and drive results through great people strategy. In addition to her role at Success Labs, she also serves as an organizer and speaker coach for TEDxLSU since its inception in 2012 and is an adjunct faculty member in the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business. She holds a BA in Communication Studies from LSU and an MA and PhD in Communication Theory from the University of Memphis. Melissa is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Baton Rouge and serves in both local and national volunteer roles for Delta Gamma.

Jason Brown
Jason Brown
Chief Marketing Officer of Marketplace Chaplains

Jason Brown currently serves as the Chief Marketing Office for Marketplace Chaplains. He is very passionate about bringing God’s love into the workplace to care for the needs of workers and is a frequent speaker/panelist/consultant for faith at work venues and organizations.

Jason joined Marketplace Chaplains in 2002 as the first region level staff member dedicated solely to new client company development and later assumed the CMO role. Through his leadership, management, team building, strategies, and vision, he has helped lead Marketplace Chaplains to become the largest and leading workplace chaplaincy provider in North America, realizing year-over-year double-digit growth. Today, Marketplace has over 1,850 Chaplains who serve over 1,250 companies, and caring for over 1.5 million employees, residents, patients, and family members.

Jason came with over 35 years of sales and marketing experience which included Procter & Gamble, National Sales Manager for Wrangler Outerwear, and Computer Resale Technologies. Jason was also a professional athlete and won the 1991 World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider title, while also serving as rodeo’s National Spokesman Coordinator.

Jason graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in Marketing from the Rawls School of Business where he also co-founded the Young Entrepreneur Society. In addition to having owned and operated a successful commercial real estate business, Jason has served his community as a County Election Judge, the youth of his area as a U.S. Lacrosse Level II Certified Coach, President of Rockwall-Heath Lacrosse, a Bassmaster Captain and was active on the Board of the DFW Lacrosse League. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Last Well, the Marsh Center for Chaplain Studies, 4Word for Women and is frequently asked to speak at events and conferences. In 2020, Jason received the OnCon Top 100 Marketer Award selected by his peers and in 2021 received OnCon’s Top 50 Marketer Award. He was also an elected Board Member of the Dallas Athletic Club serving as Executive Secretary and also Chairman of the House, Social and Long-Range Planning Committees.

Jason and his wife Cyndi are the proud parents of twin boys, Layton and Parker, who attend Dallas Baptist University, and are nationally ranked competitive Bass fisherman. Jason and his family attend Lakepointe Church and reside in Heath, Texas.

Pat Witty
Pat Witty
Louisiana Economic Development Director of Small Business & Community Services

Patrick has served as the Director of Small Business and Community Services at Louisiana Economic Development since 2005. He has over 40 years of experience in community and economic development, banking, public finance and government.

In addition to his work with small business and community capacity building, Patrick serves as staff support for the department’s engagement with regional economic development organizations as well as disaster response, recovery and resilience.

Patrick earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He has served on the New Roads City Council, as President of the Pointe Coupee Chamber of Commerce, President of the Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association (LIDEA) and as State President of the Louisiana Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).

Patrick is currently in formation to become a Permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church, serving the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

He and his wife of 40+ years, Stephanie reside in Ventress.

Kevin Richard
Kevin Richard
LA Department of Revenue (LDR) Secretary

Kevin Richard began serving as the Secretary for the Louisiana Department of Revenue on February 1, 2022. Kevin also serves as a Commissioner for the Louisiana Remote Sellers Commission and serves as the Chairman of the Louisiana Tax Free Shopping Program. Kevin also serves as a member of the Louisiana Tax Institute and as an ex-officio member of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. Prior to his current role, he served as Deputy Secretary since 2016, having oversight over the department’s Field Audit Program, Audit Review & Appeals Division, Agency Compliance Division, Business Services Division and the Office of Charitable Gaming. He has also served as director of the Field Audit Income Tax Division and the Audit Intelligence Team, and as Auditor Manager of the Houston District Office for LDR. He has been with the agency since 1994, beginning as a front desk clerk in the New Orleans Regional Office. Kevin has worked in nearly every enforcement and audit position in the agency.

Kevin earned a degree in Business Administration from Southern University at New Orleans and a Master of Business Administration from Texas A&M-Commerce. He is a licensed CPA in Louisiana and Texas.

Luke Morris
Luke Morris
LDR Deputy Secretary

Luke Morris has served as the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Legal Affairs of the Louisiana Department of Revenue since April 2017 and most recently as the Deputy Secretary. He supervises both the Litigation Division and Policy and Legislative Services Division. In this capacity, he advises the Secretary of Revenue on matters in litigation, legislation pending before the Louisiana Legislature, and policy guidance issued by the Department. Morris received his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2010 where he graduated summa cum laude. He attended the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University and received his Juris Doctorate along with a Bachelor of Comparative Law in 2013. Prior to joining the Department, Morris worked as a senior tax accountant for the firm Postlethwaite & Netterville APAC. He joined the Department in 2015 as an Assistant Director in the Field Audit Income Tax Division where he developed and administered the Department’s individual income tax audit program. Morris is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association and Baton Rouge Bar Association.

Jennifer Hillman
Jennifer Hillman
LDR Assistant Secretary, Group III

Jennifer Hillman has supervised the Field Audit Individual Income Tax division since 2018. Prior to joining the Louisiana Department of Revenue in 2017, Jennifer worked at Shaw/CBI from 2010-2013, and Albemarle Corporation from 2013-2017 as a Tax Accountant concentrating on numerous tax types such as corporate income and franchise tax, sales tax and property tax. Jennifer attended Southeastern University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 2010. Jennifer also received her Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Project Management from Southern Columbia University in 2021.

Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith
Certified Emergency Manager & CEO

Kevin Smith, CEM, is the Chief Executive Officer of Rule One Consulting, LLC. He is a Certified Emergency Manager who has worked with local, state and federal government and nonprofit organizations for more than 25 years. Kevin began his career 1996 with The Salvation Army where he led disaster relief efforts for multiple federally declared disasters as Area Commander including wildfires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes. In 2001, Mr. Smith served multiple Incident Management General Staff roles for The Salvation Army following the attacks on September 11.

From 2005-2008, Mr. Smith served as the National Disaster Specialist with Feeding America helping to build resilience and response capacity within food banks and community-based organization member agencies. In July, 2018, Kevin was appointed as the Director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives. During his time there, Kevin contributed to the establishment of the first ever faith-based advisory council to a federal cabinet secretary and was appointed as the Designated Federal Officer to the Faith-based Security Advisory Council to oversee its establishment.

Kevin worked with the White House Office of Public Liaison to forge relationships across all DHS component agencies developing partnerships between the public, faith and community-based organizations, emergency managers and first responders to strengthen the resilience of our nation. This includes increasing faith-based and community engagement in support of the DHS Blue Campaign, the unified voice for the DHS’s efforts to combat human trafficking. His office supported faith-based organizations through the response and recovery efforts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the humanitarian aid crisis on the US southern border and the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kevin holds certifications from the International Association of Emergency Managers and has completed Harvard University’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. He has received the Distinguished Service Awards from National Hurricane Conference, and the Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference.

Stephen Hebert
Stephen Hebert
Registered Nurse & Pastor

Stephen A. Hebert has been a frontline worker serving in the medical field for over thirty years. He later became an ordained minister in 2006, adding a second vocation to his career as a registered nurse. Having been bi-vocational for over fifteen years, he has embraced every challenge and accepted it as an opportunity. This was no exception when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States in the year 2020. His new book, “COVID-19 One Family’s Journey” is a dynamic story about his life, his careers, his walk with God, and his family’s journey as he went from being the caregiver to being a critical care patient, fighting for his life.

Bryan Beam
Bryan Beam
Parish Administrator, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury


Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and resides there; married to the former Edith Pavy; one child, Andrew.


  • High School: LaGrange High (Lake Charles), Graduated 1980
  • College: Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, 1984
  • Graduate School: Masters Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, 1994


  • Graduate of Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) Leadership Louisiana program (2013)
  • Graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s program “Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict, and Courage,”        2008
  • Graduate of Louisiana State University’s Executive Training Program (3 years), 2006
  • Past President of the Organization of Parish Administrative Officials of the Louisiana Police Jury Association
  • Graduate of the Chamber Southwest Louisiana Leadership Program, 1998


  • Began employment within the Parish in December, 1994
  • Served as Assistant Parish Administrator 2002 – 2010
  • Has served as Parish Administrator since April 1, 2010

*The speakers, topics, and schedule may be subject to change.

Conference Schedule

Time Topic & Speakers
10:00AM - 10:40AM
Welcome Message
Bryan Beam Parish Administrator, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury
Rev. Jody Robert Unite Us SWLA Community Engagement Manager
Plans for the Day Announcement
Dr. Cathy Denison-Robert Conference Director, Executive Director & Business Consultant
LA Dept. of Revenue Funding Agency
Kevin Richard LA Dept. of Revenue Secretary Luke Morris LA Dept. of Revenue Deputy Secretary Jennifer Hillman LA Dept. of Revenue Assistant Secretary, Group III

The introductory session includes our Welcome address and a message from our state funding agency. The conference plans for the day will be announced.

10:45AM – 11:05AM
Emergency Management during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Other Disasters
Kevin Smith Certified Emergency Manager & CEO

How do you manage disasters in the time of a pandemic? As we go through multiple disasters at the same time, lines can be blurred on how best to respond in times of crisis. In this session, learn how to best manage emergency situations while offering hope to those impacted.

11:10AM – 11:40AM
Employment Assistance and Workforce Training during Uncertain Times
Dr. Melissa Thompson Consultant & Coach Dr. David Lafargue SOWELA Executive Director of Workforce Solutions

Employment shifts are inevitable during a disaster. As businesses cut back on employees or make the difficult decision to not reopen, many community members are left seeking new employment. Join this session to learn how to navigate the employment waters during times of crisis. We'll discuss employment assistance and workforce training with emphasis on soft skills, strengthening communication skills, and other workforce training activities.

11:45AM – 12:25PM
Current State of the US and Louisiana Business Climates
Marc DeCourcey Sr. VP of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Stephen Waguespack President of Louisiana Association of Business & Industry Pat Witty LED Director of Small Business & Community Services

In the wake of natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, how has the US and Louisiana economic and professional business environment shifted? Panelists will walk participants through the current business climate, discussing opportunities and challenges we currently face.

12:30PM – 12:40PM
12:40PM – 1:30PM
Building a Resilient Organization that moves from Surviving to Thriving
Dr. Cathy Denison-Robert Conference Director, Executive Director & Business Consultant Dr. Maureen Orey Management Consultant & Professor

Our businesses and nonprofits have faced great loss since 2020 while wading through relief application processes and the struggles of rebuilding. In this session, we will cover Essentials for Business Success and a Stay Afloat Resilience model to help navigate challenging conditions. Let's move from just surviving to thriving!

1:35PM – 2:15PM
Disaster Recovery for Small Businesses and Nonprofits: Real Stories of Struggles and Triumphs
Patricia Jones Executive Director, Allen Council on Aging Rita Fields Restaurant Owner & Chef Mike Beer CEO of Calcasieu Area Council Boy Scouts of America

Tune in to this session for true stories of struggle and triumph during the pandemic and natural disasters from business owners and non-profit organization leaders. Hear them speak from their heart. Participants will leave with practical tips to move forward with expectancy.

2:15PM – 2:25PM
2:25PM – 3:00PM
Taking a Faith-Based Approach to Improve Spiritual Recovery
Jason Brown Chief Marketing Officer of Marketplace Chaplains Rev. Jody Robert Unite Us SWLA Community Engagement Manager

Spiritual healing is just as crucial as physical and mental rebuilding in the wake of a disaster or crisis. In this session led by faith-based leaders, hear about stories of many dealing with great loss, recovery through service, and spiritual healing. These leaders will provide practical applications and recommendations for rebuilding one's spiritual life.

3:05PM – 4:00PM
Health and Healing in the Aftermath of Disaster
Stephen Hebert Registered Nurse & Pastor Julie Este-McDonald Licensed Professional Counselor Dr. John Noble, Jr. Orthopedic Surgeon & Entrepreneur

Disaster and crisis cause ripple effects through a community, including economic and personal impacts. As we tend to focus our efforts on the tangible recovery of businesses, buildings, and homes, we often disregard the emotional, mental, and physical toll a disaster affords us. We will discuss the importance of comprehensive health and healing in the aftermath of disaster as a necessity to building back as a more resilient individual and community.

4:05PM – 4:35PM
The Changed Educational System: A Firsthand View from Educators
Kendra Lewis Teacher & Instructional Coach Dr. Brian Rash FranU Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences

The news channels aren't short of stories of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on education with topics of teacher burnout, distance learning, and achievement gaps at the forefront. To combat the effects of COVID and other natural disasters in schools and universities, hear from educators on changes in the system, empowerment, and motivating students. We want to offer encouragement to teachers and educators.

4:35PM – 5:35PM
Motivational Keynote – Let’s Keep On Going: A Journey of Restoration and Renewal
Mickey Smith Jr. Grammy Educator, Motivational Speaker, Author, & Musician

Grammy Award-Winning Educator, Motivational Speaker, Author and Musician Mickey Smith, Jr. will draw on his experiences during the pandemic and other natural disasters to share how to be restored and renewed in uncertain times. As he guides us to "Keep On Going," we will be energized, uplifted, and entertained!

5:40PM – 6:00PM
Closing Remarks - Moving Forward: Next Steps to Building Stronger
Dr. Cathy Denison-RobertConference Director, Executive Director & Business Consultant

Our closing will be a quick session to wrap up, to focus on next steps, and to move forward to build back stronger.

Conference Director &
Additional INfo

The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Conference Director is Cathy Denison-Robert, PhD, MBA. If you have questions or want more information, contact Cathy via email or call (337) 502-1911.

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