BATON ROUGE, La. — Today, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson announced the addition of eight members to his executive staff.
Anne Villa will serve as Undersecretary. Villa has served as LED Undersecretary since 2012 after working in the private sector for more than 20 years. She was vice president of operations and finance for MDI Entertainment LLC, along with prior roles as finance manager for Exide Technologies and Ryder Systems Inc.
Mandi Mitchell will serve as Assistant Secretary. Mitchell assumed her role as LED Assistant Secretary in June 2015 after joining LED in 2012 as director of governmental affairs. Prior to LED, Mitchell operated an independent business as a governmental affairs consultant covering economic development, oil and gas, real estate, child and family issues, and K-12 and higher education issues. Before launching her own firm, Mitchell spent nine years in the private sector as an engineer and then governmental affairs manager at BellSouth/AT&T.
Jeff Lynn will serve as Executive Director of Workforce Development Programs. Lynn developed and started LED FastStart®, which provides customized workforce solutions to new and expanding companies in Louisiana. He previously implemented and managed a similar program for the State of Georgia for over 10 years. Prior to joining Georgia’s program, Lynn served in leadership roles for Ciba Vision, a Novartis Company in Duluth, Georgia.
Patrick Witty will serve as Director of Small Business and Community Services. He has more than 30 years of experience in banking, government and economic development. Prior to joining LED over 10 years ago, Witty served as director of economic development for Cleco Power LLC, where he was responsible for business retention and expansion activities.
David Carter will serve as Special Projects Manager to Secretary Pierson. Prior to joining LED, Carter served as campaign consultant for Claiborne Parish Sheriff Ken Bailey. Carter previously worked at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber as part of the Communications and Economic Competitiveness teams. During his tenure at BRAC, Carter completed his master’s degree in Mass Communication at LSU, with a focus on political communication and policy advocacy.
Paine Gowen will serve as Executive Assistant to Secretary Pierson. Prior to joining LED, Gowen served as executive assistant to the founder and CEO of Raising Cane’s, Todd Graves. Previously, Gowen held positions at the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism; Office of the Lieutenant Governor; and Office of the Governor. She served as director of Boards and Commissions and later became executive assistant to Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
Sherri McConnell will serve as Assistant to the Secretary for Special Projects and Policy. Before joining LED, McConnell served as principal of McConnell and Associates Consulting. Prior to forming her consulting firm, she served as executive director of the Office of Entertainment Industry Development, the state’s office dedicated to the development of Louisiana’s entertainment industry.
Larry Collins will serve as Executive Director for the Office of International Commerce and be responsible for leading LED’s international business development efforts. Before joining LED, Collins served as the president and CEO of the Livingston Economic Development Council. Prior to LEDC, he served as the director of economic development at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber for the eight-parish region surrounding Baton Rouge, and directed BRAC’s international business development efforts.
“LED’s storied success has been a product of its talented employees,” Pierson said. “These talented people will accelerate the department’s momentum and help move Louisiana forward.”