Presenting 2019's 40 Under Forty Young Professionals
Each year, the Greater Shreveport Chamber’s Young Professional Initiative has highlighted 40 of our region’s most dynamic and accomplished young professionals who are engaged in our community as entrepreneurs, executives and managers in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Entering its 13th year, this year will mark more than 500 individuals receiving recognition, with many from previous classes going on to become our local leaders in business, politics and public service. 40 Under Forty is our chance to celebrate our best young leaders by spotlighting those who are excelling in their profession and making an impact on and for our community.
The judges also select a Young Professional of the Year as the individual among the 40 who exemplifies the spirit of 40 Under Forty. The decision is always a tough one, as each class of 40 brings their unique talents, experiences and contributions to our community.
"We are incredibly impressed with the lineup of leaders and professionals that have been chosen as honorees for the Young Professional Initiative's 2019 top 40 Under Forty," 318 Forum publisher Jay Covington said. "We have had the pleasure of meeting and presenting these young representatives of Chamber members for 12 years. It is the mission of 318 Forum magazine to promote the positive aspects of our community. Our partnership with the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and YPI are a shining example of what we are all about: Showcasing the best our cities have to offer," Covington said.
Jana Freeman Forrest is honored to serve as the 2019 40 Under Forty chair. "Serving has provided me the opportunity to honor each of these amazing individuals that bring new life, hope and talent to our community. Their professional accomplishments and community activism set them apart and make Shreveport/Bossier a better place to live, work and play," Forrest said.
As the profiles in the following pages will demonstrate, this year’s class is no exception, comprising a group of highly engaged, highimpact individuals. This diverse group includes physicians, lawyers and school principals, as well as managers, owners and directors from the private and non-profit sectors. Each of them deserves recognition for what they bring to our community. Take a look at the following pages to see the range of talent and breadth of commitment we have in our community. Who would you pick as our Young Professional of the Year? Make your choice and join us at the 40 Under Forty Gala on Saturday, Dec. 7, when we'll all find out whom the judges selected!
– Timothy J. Magner, President
LaToya Amos is a local agent for New York Life Insurance Company in downtown Shreveport. She is known for helping, educating and supporting clients as they develop strategic investment plans for the future.
LaToya is a native of the Shreveport-Bossier community. She graduated with her associate degree from Bossier Parish Community College and is pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology from LSUS. LaToya was first introduced to being a thriving citizen and business owner in 2014 when her online women's boutique was selected to participate in Shreveport's first Downtown Development Pop-Up event. She showcased not only her love for fashion but also her personality and her ability to make connections.
LaToya has since engaged with various community organizations throughout the area. She serves on the board of Community Renewal International, the Southern Hills Neighborhood Association, National Association for Women in Music and Entertainment, and is past Woman of the Year and president for Parvenu Bossier Charter Chapter, American Business Women Association.
LaToya is a passionate, caring mentor and role model for other young professionals. She knows that it's not always about being seen in the front view, but the hard work that's invested behind the scenes that brings you success. LaToya is dedicated to serving her community and is looking forward to growth, opportunities and bridging relationships.
Sheena Bryant’s career has been about public service, enhancing the community she lives in and giving back to improve the quality of life for others. In her adopted home of Shreveport- Bossier, Sheena brings extensive experience in economic development and international relations to recruiting new companies to North Louisiana. She leads the North Louisiana Economic Partnership's business development program and supports defense-related activity in the region. Within three years of working at NLEP, she has worked on 90 projects representing a cumulative value of $9.5 billion in capital investment and nearly 28,000 jobs.
As a former consultant for Deloitte in Washington, D.C., Sheena managed multimillion-dollar contracts for the Department of Defense. She earned a corporate award for an exceptional marketing campaign and was subsequently sent to Yale to complete an advanced consulting program. She has advised senior-level decision makers on projects at the United Nations, U.S. Commercial Service and government of Guam. Sheena worked as policy advisor for the governor of Guam and managed a division in the state-level economic development organization. For her work to modernize policies throughout government in Guam, Sheena received the Governor’s Award – the highest and most prestigious award given to a public servant in the U.S. territory.
Sheena earned an M.A. in law and diplomacy from Tufts University and a B.A. from the University of California Santa Barbara. Sheena is married to Michael Bryant and is a stepmother to their two daughters, Abby, age 10, and Natalie, age 7.
Andrea Butler is the director of marketing for Caesars Entertainment's properties in Northwest Louisiana: Horseshoe Bossier City and Harrah's Louisiana Downs. In her current role, she oversees all marketing operations for both Caesars' Northwest Louisiana properties. Andrea has worked for Harrah's and Horseshoe for more than 20 years, starting in a frontline position at 18 years old serving food and drinks as a way to support her toddler daughter. Her hard work and determination continue to pay off.
Andrea has been promoted 10 times within the company and has received three of the highest awards in the casino industry: the Pride Award for Outstanding Tourism Hospitality employee and the coveted Caesars Entertainment Chairman’s Award for Leadership. Most recently, she was named as an honoree for the ATHENA Leadership Award.
Andrea is very involved in the community supporting many organizations, including the Northwest Louisiana chapter of Susan G. Komen, The Hub, Salvation Army and the Bossier Council On Aging, to name a few. When not working, she loves a great Pinterest DIY project around the house, a road trip, visiting her daughter, Adriana, in New Orleans and spending time with her family. Andrea is a Springhill native but now resides in Haughton, La. Andrea is very excited to be a part of the 2019 40 Under 40 Class.
Jeremy Cave, a life-long resident of North Louisiana, graduate of CIS from Louisiana Tech and Executive MBA from LSUS and employee at CenturyLink for 16 years in technology and strategy leadership roles, has been involved in many community service, entrepreneurial and technology events. He has consistently demonstrated great character, integrity and technical and business acumen. Happily married and a father to three young boys, Jeremy has received top awards from Century Link for service and leadership.
Jeremy is a resident of Bossier City and an active member at First United Methodist Church in Bossier. Additionally, he is an adjunct professor for the CIS program at Louisiana Tech University. Jeremy has participated in numerous entrepreneur events at CoHab and StartUp Prize, even collaborating with a local startup to receive a national innovation award and international distribution. Finally, Jeremy has completed Bossier Financial Credit Union's board associate program and has been instrumental in fostering technology growth through TechBy20 events. Jeremy is a passionate contributor to the continued economic and social growth of our region.
Veronica Cook says: My southern hospitality, charm and candid humor came from my South Bossier upbringing and my Cajun roots. My forthright character may get me in trouble, but my coworkers, friends and family don't seem to mind it. I still enjoy a good crawfish boil on a Saturday night, and on my evening runs, I will often stop to taste the honeysuckle in the springtime to remind me of grandma's house. I am blessed with a job I enjoy, while my true passion lies in educating fellow associates and the surrounding community about health and wellness. My mother and late grandmother have passed on their philanthropic spirit to me, and I, too, find satisfaction in giving back to the community. Whether I am helping put on the Fat Tuesday children’s parade, volunteering for Girls on the Run, or speaking to a group, true fulfillment to me is helping others. Admittedly, my guilty pleasures are concerts, an artsy film at the Robinson, or craft beer and pizza and especially while watching an LSU or Saints game. I love the quote, "Well-behaved women rarely make history.” No history-making accomplishments yet, but hold my beer.
Joshua Copeland is a cybersecurity engineer senior advisor and team leader at General Dynamics Information Technology's Integrated Technology Center in Bossier City. He leads a diverse team of cyber professionals charged with the care and security of multiple federal and state governmental agencies' cloud environment. Prior to working at General Dynamics, Joshua retired after 20 years of honorable service to our nation as a member of the United States Air Force, serving in various roles and culminating as Barksdale Air Force Base's Wing Information System Security manager and noncommissioned officer in charge of the Wing Cybersecurity Office assigned to the Second Communications Squadron.
Josh is active in the local community serving on the board of directors of several organizations. A member of the Armed Forces Communications Association, he serves as a vice president. The ArkLaTex Chapter of AFCEA has a significant impact on the local community, offering nearly $400,000 in scholarships and grants to local students and educators over the last decade. As a member of the ArkLaTex Chapter of ASIS International, he serves as the chapter chairman. This organization is the premier professional and certification body for security professionals in all fields. Josh serves as the certified technician chair on the board of directors for the Electronics Technician Association International, where he also sits on the certification writing committees for the Network Service Technician and Information Technology Security certifications ensuring the competencies of the exams match current industry trends and guaranteeing academic rigor of the exams.
Damarcus J. Davis
Damarcus J. Davis was born and raised in Mooretown and graduated from Fair Park High School in 2002. He went on to attend Tulane University on a football scholarship from 2002-2007. He graduated from Tulane University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology. He then furthered his career in football as a rookie camp invitee of the New Orleans Saints and a member of the New Orleans Voodoo arena football team in 2008.
In 2010 he decided to follow his passion and go to the medical field. He went back to school to get an associate degree in respiratory therapy. He then started a career at Willis-Knighton Health System. While working, he earned a Master of Health-care Administration. After working with patients from neonatal to adult, he was promoted to critical care and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation coordinator, where he was instrumental in building the ECMO program. Damarcus is now the director of respiratory care for all hospitals in the Willis-Knighton Health System.
Damarcus has been married to his wife, DeShana Davis, for nine years, and they have three beautiful children: Jade (13), Mackenzie (9), and Dylan (5). Damarcus takes pride in mentoring the youth of the inner city as he is a product of it. He loves that he can relate to the kids and show them that there is a way to be a positive influence on the community.
LaTari Fleming is the son of Emma Fleming and the grandson of Ed and Sallie Fleming. He is a member of the Mary Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church and a 2000 graduate of Woodlawn High School. LaTari holds a B.S. degree in marketing and an M.A. degree in psychology from Grambling State University. He is currently pursuing an M.S. degree from Northwestern University in higher education administration.
LaTari was enlisted in the United States Army National Guard for 12 years. During his enlistment, he had assignments at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Polk, La.; Fort Ervin, Calif.; Germany; Afghanistan; and Baghdad, Iraq. LaTari’s military awards are the Bronze Star Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Army Superior Award and Army Achievement Medal.
LaTari currently is the chief operating officer at Seedlinks Behavior Management. Recently, he served as director of admissions and recruitment at Grambling State University. In the past, LaTari served as associate director of student success at UTPB and assistant professor in psychology and first-year experience at Odessa College and Grambling State University.
LaTari is a member of the Bossier City Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. He has held the positions of vicepolemarch, keeper of records, and Kappa League director. He currently serves as the Guide Right director.
LaTari’s words of wisdom: Your performance today is better than yesterday, but not as good as it will be tomorrow, so take each day to make more than a difference – make history.
Patton Fritze is the general manager at Red River Chevrolet in Bossier City. He is also a fifth-generation owner of his family’s new-car dealership. Patton graduated from C.E. Byrd High School and LSU in Baton Rouge with a B.A. in economics, as well as the NADA Dealer Academy in McLean, Va.
Patton began working in the family business at the age of 14, during summer breaks throughout school. Since then, he has spent time in each of the dealership’s six different departments (new cars, used cars, F&I, parts, service and body shop), and now oversees all of the dealership’s fixed operations. Additionally, in 2016, he co-founded Red River Insurance Agency, an independent insurance agency located on the dealership’s main campus.
As a native of Shreveport-Bossier, Patton puts an emphasis on community involvement. He has served as a board member for the Ark- La-Tex Ambassadors, Norwela Council of the Boy Scouts, the United Way of NWLA, Chase NWLA foundation and the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. He is also a member of the Holy Angels Champions Committee and a den leader for the Cub Scouts of Pack 6. Patton and wife Michel are the proud parents of three boys, Tripp, Scott and Steele. In his free time, Patton enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling and professional tailgating.
Tharwat Ghattas, MD
Tharwat Ghattas, MD, was born and raised in Egypt. He obtained his medical degree from Cairo University in 2005. He finished his internship in 2007. Before completing his residency in internal medicine at LSUHSC Shreveport from 2010 to 2013, he worked as a nephrologist. He joined Sound Physicians at
Christus Highland in June 2014. Since then, he has been serving as Px Champion, where Highland won the highest HcAHP score for three years in a row. He also served as T.C. Champion. He joined the EMLE program and the NCIS program (for safe opioid prescriptions) and won the top 10 in NLC 2017 and presented at ASAM San Diego 2018.
In January 2018, he got promoted to chief hospitalist at Christus Highland Shreveport. Under his leadership, the team won the Symphony Award for Sound NLC 2019. He also won Chief of the Year of 2018 for the Gulf region. He also won the Summit Award for the Gulf region in Q4 2018.
Additionally, Dr. Ghattas has a lot of experience in post-acute care, specifically related to LTAC, SNF, rehab and hospice.
Dr. Ghattas volunteers at MLK clinic regularly as an internal medicine physician.
Carie Hart was born and raised in Shreveport, La. She received her bachelor’s degree in sales and service marketing from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Carie has spent her career in media advertising and marketing sales. In 2016, she co-founded Lola Magazine, a women's publication dedicated to the lives of Louisiana ladies.
She is an advocate for women supporting women and is devoted to helping businesses flourish with her knowledge of advertising and marketing. Carie spends her spare time volunteering at St. Mark’s Cathedral School and enjoys spending time with her husband, Travis, and two children, Charlie and Annie.
Jessica Hawkins is an associate professor of communication arts and chair of the Department of Art & Visual Culture at Centenary College of Louisiana. She is also an award-winning graphic designer serving a national portfolio of clients through BlueJay Creative, which she founded in 2009.
She joined the Centenary faculty in the fall of 2011 as assistant professor of communication and, in 2014, was appointed the Robert Ewing Jr. and John H. Hendrick Jr. Eminent Scholars Distinguished Professor of Communication. In 2011, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in communication design at Louisiana Tech University and, in 2004, earned her B.S. in interactive media from Harding University.
At Centenary, she teaches introductory and upper-level courses in web design, graphic design and social media for social change, while pursuing research interests involving generative art and procedural literacy as design pedagogy. In 2018 she was awarded Centenary’s Outstanding Teaching Award. She continues to create client work, believing that her practice in the design field serves her students as well.
From 2004-2009, Jessica gained experience both in her field and in her community as advertising and publications manager at the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau, earning her Travel Marketing Professional Certification from the Southeast Tourism Society in 2008.
Originally from Austin, Jessica and her husband, John, have lived in Shreveport since 2004. In 2010, they were part of the founding group for ClearView Church, a thriving community where John serves as lead minister. They have two daughters: Emma, 5, and Kate, 3.
Bevin Sutton Hicks
Bevin grew up in Ruston, La., and has been an avid writer since childhood. Her lifelong dream of publishing a magazine came to light in 2016 when she published the first issue of Lola Magazine.
Bevin graduated from Cedar Creek School in 2000 and Louisiana Tech University in 2005. She served as a Louisiana Tech cheerleader throughout her college career. She and her husband, Andrew, remain loyal Louisiana Tech fans. She spent time in Nashville, Tenn., before moving to Shreveport in 2005. She began her career in print media in 2006 and spent 10 years learning the business in the local market. In 2016 she published Lola Magazine with the help of her best friend, Carie Hart. Community involvement is close to her heart. She is a firm believer in people working hard and doing their part to better our communities. Bevin enjoys good food, road trips, shopping for anything and spending time with friends and family. She and her husband, Andrew, have two children, Stowie, 11, and Sutton Leo, 3.
Lisa Mason-Hollins, a native of Houston, Texas, is a proud 2002 graduate of Grambling State University with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education. She earned her Master of Education from Louisiana Tech University in curriculum, instruction and technology. During the 2012-2013 school year, she was the South Highlands Magnet School Teacher of the Year and Caddo Parish Public Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year. Her teaching experience includes all elementary grades, district instructional technologist, district new teacher coach, and Caddo Teaching Academy program coordinator.
Lisa serves her community through various organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Captain Shreve Band Booster, Texas Computer Education Association, Learning Forward, parent volunteer at Youree Drive Middle School and Captain Shreve High School, Shreveport Pan-Hellenic Council and Caddo Parish Recruitment Team. She also is an active member of Toastmasters International.
Currently, Lisa uses her talents as the assistant principal of Caddo Parish Middle Magnet School. This role allows her to follow her passion empowering teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to make quality decisions about teaching and learning in their classroom using technology integration while igniting a fire in their students for solving problems no amount of failure can smother.
Sergeant Michael Hollister
Originally from Lake Geneva, Wis., Senior Master Sgt. Michael Hollister is currently the lead production superintendent of the 2d Maintenance Squadron at Barksdale AFB. After graduating from high school, Hollister pursued a career as an enlisted airman in the United States Air Force. Following graduation from basic training and technical school, SMSgt. Hollister received an assignment to Barksdale AFB, where he became a crew chief on the B-52 Stratofortress. As a member of the 2d Bomb Wing, SMSgt. Hollister has deployed multiple times to the Pacific, as well as southwest Asia, to project combat air operations over Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. In 2006, SMSgt. Hollister continued his education, earning a B.S. of aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. After college, SMSgt. Hollister was selected for an instructor assignment. There he taught the next generation of B-52 warfighters. Following his instructor assignment, Sgt. Hollister returned to the 2d Bomb Wing, where he would again maintain B-52. He has served in multiple positions throughout the 2d Maintenance Group, including quality assurance chief inspector and flight superintendent. In 2017, he was nominated for the Bossier Patriot Award for responding to a disabled, explosively loaded B-52 that landed with six of its eight engines inoperative. SMSgt. Hollister climbed into the flight deck, mitigated the threat and saved the $84 million aircraft and the lives of the crew aboard. He is married to the love of his life, Amy, and they have two dogs.
Jennifer Horton serves as the vice president of community impact at United Way of Northwest Louisiana. She oversees their annual community impact grant process, the Volunteer Center, and their internal health and education programs.
Jennifer made her start in nonprofit when she worked for Providence House as their resource and volunteer coordinator. Seeing firsthand the needs of the community, she became driven to create an impact through her daily work. She also currently serves as secretary of the Northwest Louisiana VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – North Louisiana Chapter.
Jennifer is originally from Alexandria, La., and moved to Shreveport in 2011. She and her husband, Brandon, live with their children and fur-children. Jennifer is happiest when she is spending time with her family. She also enjoys running and Sunday car rides. She and Brandon share a love of baseball and are loyal Texas Rangers fans. They are patiently waiting on a World Series win.
Lauren Grimes Jackson
Lauren Grimes Jackson is a proud native of Opelousas, La. She is the daughter of the Rev. Michael Grimes and Minister Patsy Jones. In December 2008, Lauren earned a Bachelor of Science in health and exercise science from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La. She later went on to earn master’s degrees, one in banking and financial management, as well as an MBA.
Lauren’s career in Shreveport began in 2008 at Regions Bank as a teller. After two months, she was promoted to financial service specialist. In 2009, she was promoted to assistant manager; in 2010, she was promoted to vice president/branch manager. Her branch in North Bossier was a consecutive Chairman’s Club branch winner, which performed in the top percentile of the company under the leadership of her mentor, Jonathan Reynolds, and later under Lauren’s leadership.
In 2016, Capital One Bank recruited Lauren Jackson as a business banker; she served in that role for nearly two years. After a company realignment at Capital One, Lauren returned home to Regions Bank in 2018 and started her career in mortgage lending, where she has been in the top 10% percentile of new MLOs with Regions Mortgage.
She is a proud mother of two handsome boys. She is the author of "Purposeful Pain," which is available on Amazon and all digital platforms.
Dr. Donna Johnson
Dr. Donna Johnson is a young professional who has excelled in her field and enjoys helping others succeed. Joining the staff of Louisiana Tech University in 2018, her current role as assistant vice president for academic advancement and partnerships places her in a position to oversee of the Louisiana Tech Academic Success Center in Bossier City, the Tech Barksdale Program, and the Tech Shreveport Center, which all provide advanced educational opportunities for area residents. Dr. Johnson taught in the Texas and Louisiana public school systems before moving into higher education. Dr. Johnson has managed multiple university expansion and development initiatives, bolstered educational advancement in support of the Department of Defense and assumed teaching roles with Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State, Bossier Parish Community College and Ashford University.
Dr. Johnson’s love of education is evident as she has continued to pursue learning opportunities throughout her career. She currently holds a Bachelor of Science in occupational education from Wayland Baptist University, a Master of Education from Wayland Baptist University, a Master of Arts (English) from Northwestern State University and a Doctor of Education from Louisiana Tech University.
Dr. Johnson has been active in service to the university and community through participation on various committees and workgroups, including serving as president of Open Arms Adoptions, serving on the State Taskforce for Adult Learners, and serving on numerous committees with the Shreveport and Bossier Chambers of Commerce. She is a mom to two amazing teenagers: Jacob, 16, and Anna, 14.
Spencer Kiper is a regional and global STEM education advocate who believes in empowering students through culturallyenriched and industry-based connections. His investment in the whole child approach is bolstered by his background rooted in liberal arts, technology and science education.
As a STEM enrichment educator, Spencer’s efforts to build a pipeline for STEM and career/technical education have resulted in a STEM lab that enriches the lives of over 100 students each year. Spencer’s reach resonates deep within his community in Northwest Louisiana and extends far outside of his classroom, impacting education on a global scale. His work as a professional development specialist for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and STEM Revolution has impacted the practice of educators from over 30 different countries.
Spencer is passionate about sharing innovative practices and has presented regionally and nationally on topics that build innovative educational technology and STEM education capacities in other educators. With advanced degrees in educational technology, cyber education and educational leadership, Spencer works to impact the teacher pipeline in his region by serving as an adjunct professor and school partner to the teacher preparation and alternative certification programs at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.
As Louisiana Teacher of the Year, Spencer serves on the Educator Effectiveness Committee on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and is leading a statewide campaign to bolster cyber education efforts and industry pathway opportunities for Louisiana students.
Carly Koen is the resource development and campaign cabinet manager for United Way of Northwest Louisiana. She is responsible for fundraising activities, advocating for United Way, cultivating Campaign Cabinet members and achieving Cabinet goals and outcomes.
Carly is an East Texas native who attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Upon graduation, she joined Teach for America, a nonprofit that confronts educational inequity by recruiting highquality teachers to serve in some of the most underserved communities in the United States. Carly was placed in the heart of the Mississippi Delta to teach fourth-grade math in a small rural community. Her work with students in the Delta sparked a lifelong passion for education and nonprofit service.
After moving to Shreveport, Carly continued her dedication to educating children through her work with Junior Achievement of North Louisiana, serving as the director of community engagement. This year, she was excited to bring her years of nonprofit experience to United Way.
Carly is currently pursuing a master’s degree in nonprofit administration at LSUS and will graduate next May. She also serves on the Young Professional Initiative Executive Committee as social co-chair, is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and the Woman’s Department Club. She frequently volunteers with Step Forward and Junior Achievement. In her free time, she loves reading, traveling and spending time with friends and family.
Carly is thankful that she was welcomed so warmly to Louisiana, and she looks forward to her future here.
After working in the medical field for over 15 years as director of sales training and development and a certified family nurse practitioner, Eric Lang decided to change course. Wanting to be a more hands-on father, he left his career in nursing and joined his wife, Dr. Morgan Trahant Lang, as the office manager for Lang Orthodontics. Since joining the team, the office has doubled in size. It has added state-ofthe-art technologies like an all-digital scanner and 3-D printing that helps patients achieve the smile they always wanted in a comfortable, family-focused environment.
Philanthropy has always played a significant role in his life, and Eric continues to volunteer his time to visit with patients in local clinical and hospital settings performing magic tricks. To enhance local school events and international organizations, Eric has donated time/services, made donations, and provided the Lang photo booth to over 100 of these organizations. He currently serves on the YMCA board of directors.
Most people don’t know that Eric accepted an invitation to swim at the University of Connecticut to pursue his dream of swimming in college. While injuries held him from competing beyond his freshman year, he attributes those injuries as being instrumental in meeting his wife during an internship at Walt Disney World. Outside of the office, Eric enjoys antique cars, is an avid athlete and enjoys running with his kids in their jogging stroller more than anything.
Elissa Little is a local Realtor® with Little Realty Inc. She serves as president of the Young Professionals Network, vice-president of Hope Connections, volunteer chairman for Mudbug Madness, and a board member for Downtown Shreveport Unlimited. She was born and raised in Shreveport, La. She loves her community and is excited to be a part of this year’s 40 Under 40 class!
Dr. James Lowder
Dr. James Lowder graduated from LSU Dental School and returned home to Shreveport to start a dental practice with business partner Dr. Moore. Founding their practice on the three key values of faith, family and community, Southern Roots Dentistry has had incredible success in its first two years due to its strong community roots, philanthropic outreach and excellent personalized care.
As a business owner and dentist, Dr. Lowder is a champion for the community, dental field and his patients. He currently serves as the secretary of the Northwest Louisiana Dental Association, where he and his colleagues pursue further education and work toward the betterment of the field of dentistry. He has served patients in a variety of settings, including nursing homes, a community clinic, his own practice and as a staff member of LSU Health Shreveport. Dr. Lowder treats patients with a variety of needs, including children with special needs, in the operating room at LSU/Ochsner. These children previously had to travel long distances to have dental treatment.
Dr. Lowder has a heart for the community where he grew up and loves to give back wherever there is a need. He is an active member of the LSU Alumni Association. He has many accomplishments, including Kiss Country Caught in the Act recipient, being Mike the Tiger at LSU, and winner of "Wheel of Fortune." He believes that being part of something bigger than yourself, whether it is in your workplace or in your community, is what feeds the soul.
Trey McGuire serves as the director of a local Shreveport/Bossier nonprofit organization known as The Warrior Network. Founded in 2015 out of an idea to serve Thanksgiving dinner to service members, The Warrior Network has grown to have a reach into the lives of military members all around the world. Trey has a strong heart for our local military community and has a passion for influencing, serving, building and mobilizing those currently serving. He is gifted at relating, dedicated to serving, and seeks not only to lead those around him, but also learn to lead from those around him. Taking the experiences of his own life, Trey is passionate about helping others realize the power of their influence and the power that their story and experience have not just to change their own lives, but also impact the military culture, and therefore influence our communities. As a strong visionary and extremely passionate person, Trey also serves as campus pastor for the brand new Riverpark Benton Campus, helping lead the efforts to serve the people of that area with the radical love of Jesus through church planting. He truly believes the words of John Maxwell
when he stated that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less. Trey desires to lead and influence people through long-term investment in their lives. Trey and his wife, Tiffany, live on Barksdale Air Force Base, right in the middle of the community they are seeking to serve.
Taunton Melville's passions include law, history and music, and Shreveport-Bossier has plenty of all three. Taunton practices civil law at Blanchard, Walker, O'Quin & Roberts, PLC, one of Shreveport's oldest law firms, in existence for more than 100 years.
After 10 years of legal practice, he has broad experience in a number of areas, including premise liability, successions, oil and gas, contract disputes, insurance claims and more.
When not practicing law, Taunton enjoys learning about history. He has a close connection to a Shreveport-Bossier historical figure: his uncle, former Gov. Buddy Roemer. Taunton recently helped Roemer write and publish his childhood memoir about growing up in Bossier Parish, entitled "Scopena: A Memoir of Home."
Taunton's favorite historical figures include four Brits: the Beatles. His knowledge of the Fab Four helped him win a Beatles trivia contest at Shreveport's own Robinson Film Center. Taunton's love of music also includes composing and recording music independently and with his musical group, Banded. Formed while students at Louisiana Tech, the group's members are originally from Louisiana, Vietnam and Lebanon. The band has released three albums of original songs.
Taunton is fascinated by the area's rich musical history that he wants to see elevated in tourist programs. With historical ties to Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Huddie Ledbetter and many others, Taunton hopes to help Shreveport-Bossier do more to celebrate its role in the evolution of popular music. Taunton and his wife, Christy, enjoy hot tea date nights, playing tennis, debating politics, reading and supporting each other.
Candice Mills is the director of programs and children's services at Providence House. She believes that when a child is born into poverty, they have little control over health, education or quality of life, and in many cases, do not have the ability to make the necessary adjustments to put them on the path to success. She is committed to the protection of children through education and the opportunity to rise from poverty. Children require individual attention, guidance and encouragement to pursue their dreams and achieve a brighter future. Candice, along with Providence House staff, works diligently to improve the possibilities for each child in our community. She fell in love with nonprofits as a teenager, working as an after-school tutor with the Boys and Girls Club in Webster Parish, quickly developing a deep passion for early childhood education. This resolve stuck with her throughout her education, leading to a degree in early childhood education. Candice grew up in a small town in Louisiana, with a healthy support system and knows the benefits of having a secure family unit. Over 16 years later, she provides leadership and encouragement to the Providence House team and spends her days helping families gain stability, fight addiction and become contributing members of our community.
Laura Beeman Nugent
Laura Beeman Nugent recently joined LSU- Shreveport family as the newly appointed director of alumni affairs, having transitioned from her position at Robinson Film Center as education coordinator and film camp director. An avid supporter of the arts in Shreveport, she and her husband, Clay, are A-lister members of the Robinson Film Center and enjoy fully supporting a unique treasure in northwest Louisiana. She holds an associate's degree in speech with a concentration in theatre from BPCC, a bachelor's degree in speech with a concentration in theatre from Louisiana Tech, and a master's degree in liberal arts with 18+ hours in theatre from LSUS. She is the academy artistic director at Shreveport Little Theatre as well as an adjunct instructor at BPCC.
Sam Ortiz is a proud Shreveporter who was born and raised here by her two loving parents. After graduating from Caddo Magnet High school, Sam obtained her degree in history from LSU-S with the intent to teach social studies. After substitute teaching for two years, Sam realized that people face so many obstacles in their lives that can keep them from benefitting from their education, and she wanted to do something about that. Sam enrolled in the Social Work Master's Program at Grambling State University. In November 2015, she graduated with honors and was recognized for being the highest-ranking student in the program. Upon graduation, Sam was employed at The Philadelphia Center and shortly after that passed her licensure exam to become a Licensed Master of Social Work. Currently, Sam acts as the social worker at The Philadelphia Center and its permanent housing facility, Mercy Center. In her spare time, Sam is a very active member of the Shreveport community and dedicates her time to engaging the community around her and volunteering for local organizations. Sam is an active member of PACE and the chairwoman for the North LA Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
Along with her wife, Sam has created the Ortiz Wives brand and lifestyle blog and is a founder of Queer Magnolias. She is dedicated to breaking down walls that separate different communities and to keeping people here in Shreveport to live and work. Sam lives in Broadmoor Terrace with her wife, Nicole, and their four fur babies.
Dr. Lindsey Pennington
Dr. Lindsey Pennington attended Tulane University in New Orleans to obtain her undergraduate degree. She graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. After completing her residency in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at LSUHSC in Shreveport, she completed an additional year of surgical fellowship training in facial plastics and reconstructive surgery under the prestigious Dr. Stucker, an accomplished past president of the American Academy of Facial Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery. After completion of this fellowship, Dr. Pennington pursued additional externships with Dr. McCoullough and Dr. Jacono to further expand her surgical knowledge with the guidance of world-renowned surgeons in the cosmetic community.
She offers the unique experience of a boutique concierge cosmetic facial plastic surgery practice from a female perspective. She and her team offer skincare, lasers and facials for maintenance and prevention of aging. In addition, she performs medical and surgical procedures ranging from the minimally invasive injections of Botox and dermal fillers such as Juvéderm to full cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries, including cosmetic and functional rhinoplasty, eyelid lifts and facelifts.
She is married to local anesthesiologist Dr. Andrew Larson and is the proud mother of Kinsley Larson, their sweet and sassy 1-yearold daughter.
Lindsey Pennington, MD, is a cosmetic facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon located at 6030 Line Ave., Suite 110, (318) 216-5366 FB and Instagram @penningtonfacialplastics.
John Gray Pou
John Gray Pou is a wealth management advisor with Merrill Lynch in Shreveport. Along with his partners in the Smithwick, Day, Bickham, Pratt & Pou team, John Gray helps clients with financial planning, retirement planning and portfolio management. He focuses on a goals-based wealth management approach to provide customized financial portfolios to help clients maximize their returns while taking the least amount of risk possible to meet their goals. His servicefocused practice, combined with his financial background, enables clients to concentrate on their priorities at each stage of their lives. John Gray earned his CFP® designation to help further guide his clients on the right path to financial success. He received his bachelor's degree in business administration and his MBA specializing in finance and internal audit at Louisiana State University. He is married to Laura and has two children, Jack and Kate. When he is away from work, he loves to play tennis, golf and coach his kids in all the sports they love.
A graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a Shreveport native, Deidra Lewis-Robertson felt a calling to ministry early in her life. Immediately after graduation in 2004, she began her career in the social services field, serving the underprivileged and, often, the overlooked. She has served as the director of programs for homeless women and children in the Salvation Army, where her compassion for the poor among us grew. More recently, she and her husband agreed to relocate their family to one of Shreveport’s urban areas to live in and manage one of Community Renewal’s Friendship Houses. He is a community coordinator for an after-school program for middle and high school students; she is the director of Operation HOPE (Helping Our Pupils Excel). They also serve neighbors by offering computer and printing services at no cost and bringing education and health workshops to a community with financial and transportation barriers. They work diligently to bring their community together by hosting neighborhood picnics and monthly family nights, where food and fellowship bring a sense of unity, and other events designed to increase civic involvement for a population that often feels disconnected and neglected by the leadership designed to protect them.
Deidra loves her work, where she can directly impact youth in the preparation of life after high school. She says, "I don't view this as a job, but my kingdom assignment given to me by God!"
After working for PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP in Houston, Claire Sevier joined the tax department at Heard, McElroy & Vestal in 2012. She works in the Shreveport office as a tax manager. Her responsibilities include communicating with clients to discuss present and future tax-saving opportunities, developing tax planning tactics, and completing tax returns for individuals, corporations, partnerships and trusts. Claire also researches current tax laws and regulations. Claire is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Society of Louisiana Certified Public Accountants.
Involvement in the community is important to Claire. She is a board member of the Fuller Center for Housing of NWLA, member and former chairman of the Holy Angels Champions for Individuals with Disabilities, as well as a member of the Finance Committee for the Holy Angels Board of Directors, and president-elect for the Shreveport Chapter of the Society of Louisiana Certified Public Accountants. She participated in the Louisiana Association of Non-Profit Organizations Leadership Class and the Greater Shreveport
Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program. Claire received her Bachelor of Science in accounting and Master of Science in accounting from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Emily Smith serves as the director of marketing and communications for the Community Foundation of North Louisiana, where she coordinates the organization's outreach to donors, nonprofit organizations, media and the public. She oversees Give for Good, an online giving day, that has raised over $3.7 million for more than 200 nonprofits during Emily's two-year tenure at the Foundation. As a volunteer, she regularly works with organizations such as Volunteers of America, Louisiana Film Prize Foundation's Prize Fest and Power & Grace School of Performing Arts. She is an active member of the Junior League of Shreveport-Bossier and this year will serve as the assistant chair of project research and development. Through her work with the League, she has mentored teen girls at Volunteers of America's downtown LightHouse, helped implement the Red Apron Pantry food distribution program in Stoner Hill, taught local children about healthy eating and exercise habits through Kids in the Kitchen, and supported the arts through volunteering at the Red River Revel. In her professional career, volunteer work and community engagement, Emily dedicates herself to improving the lives of the underserved in our community, especially children, and transforming the culture of Shreveport-Bossier into a brighter place for all who call it home.
Michael Travis Smith
Michael Travis Smith is the third-generation owner of Pioneer Comfort Systems, a heating, air-conditioning and plumbing company located in Shreveport.
In an industry that is generally known for its dirty jobs that typically aren’t fun for the homeowner or their household budget, Michael leads Pioneer with one fundamental belief and a shared core value of his grandfather’s: “We will not compromise integrity.” Along with his father, Travis Smith, Pioneer has proudly held the same high standards for nearly 60 years.
For Michael, integrity doesn’t start and end with the quality of a job. That part is a given in his opinion. He believes it starts with the quality of people he hires and the relationships he builds with them. They are in a business that requires exceptionally hard work, long hours, not to mention the 100+ degree attic temperatures and working with the less than desirable pipes under a family’s home. Their work is the complete opposite of a glamorous job, but Michael has a unique ability to create a positive (and often humorous) camaraderie with his team of employees. They have a bond, a mutual respect. And believe it or not, they have fun.
When Michael isn’t working, you will find him with his wife, Amy Kathleen, and their three boys, Luke, Max Henry and Anderson. Smith is also an avid flyer and aviation enthusiast who enjoys helping new and young people interested in aviation.
Aaron Storer is the executive vice president and general manager of Storer Services in Shreveport, La. After obtaining a degree in finance from Louisiana Tech, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, where he spent approximately four years on active duty. Aaron joined his family's business in 2008, intending to continue his grandfather and father's legacy of improving the effectiveness and development of a community. Since his on-boarding, he has been an instrumental part of the continued growth and development of Storer Services. Aaron believes in developing strong relationships and partnering with businesses, industry and community leaders to provide a better place for everyone to work and live.
He takes an all-encompassing approach in his leadership, developing innovative, comprehensive and sustainable solutions through teamwork, education and training.
Aaron surrounds himself with strong team members and believes in empowering them to work towards a common goal. As the general manager, Aaron has increased the number of team members from 69 to 116 in only three years.
Mandy, and father to their three children, Asher, 6, Abram, 5, and Audrey is 3. Aaron and his family enjoy traveling and just about anything outdoors. Some of his additional hobbies include scuba diving and playing golf. Aaron is also a licensed pilot.
Luke Thaxton was born in Shreveport, La. In 2007, he graduated from Louisiana State University Shreveport with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Luke attended the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich. During school, Luke served with the Portland Community Arts Council, assisting with writing grants for children’s and community art projects.
Luke joined Watson, Blanche, Wilson & Posner, specializing in medical malpractice and insurance defense. After two years in Baton Rouge, Luke returned home to join the Jack Bailey Law Corporation, where his practice focused on personal injury, medical malpractice and workers’ compensation law.
In 2015, Luke formed the Thaxton Law Firm, LLC, a general practice focusing on residential, commercial and land transactions, corporate acquisitions, regulatory affairs and general litigation for development firms, contractors and management companies in Louisiana.
In 2018, Luke formed Thaxton Title, LLC, to conduct residential, commercial and land transactions and Southern Home Warranty and Maintenance Inc., to provide homeowners an option to purchase home warranties from a local home warranty company. Subsequently, Southern Home Maintenance and Repair, LLC, was formed to service those home warranty contracts.
Luke has served as an at-large member (2015), fundraiser committee chair (2016), treasurer (2016), secretary (2017), vice president (2018), and president (2019) of Aaron is a devoted husband to his wife, the Shreveport Bar Foundation; as vice president (2015) and president (2016) of the Young Lawyers Section of the Shreveport Bar Association; as a committee member of the Louisiana State Bar Association Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse since 2011; and as an at-large member of Shreveport Bar Association (2017-2019).
LaKeisha Myles Towner
LaKeisha Myles Towner is a chemist at AEP/SWEPCO, where she works in the environmental laboratory running laboratory tests to identify and quantify potentially hazardous substances. She is also an adjunct instructor of chemistry at Southern University at Shreveport. She earned her B.S. in chemistry from Grambling State University and received her M.S. in engineering and technology management from Louisiana Tech University.
LaKeisha has worked with several industry laboratories to include Great Southern Laboratories, Schlumberger Oilfield Services, Champion Technologies, Omni Specialty Packaging and Hexion Oilfield Technology Group. With 14 years of experience as a chemist, LaKeisha continues to grow and expand her knowledge in the field.
not only brings her skills to the laboratory, but she shares her
talents with numerous community organizations. She currently serves as
vice president of the Red River Chapter of Jack and Jill of America
Inc., is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Delta Lambda Omega
Chapter, Top Ladies of Distinction Inc. Shreveport chapter, and she
serves on the board of LA Lagniappe Club of AEP/SWEPCO.
LaKeisha is married to Larry Towner II. She has three children, Johnny, Keishawn and Landon. Her weekends are usually filled with activities with the kids, volunteering and trying out new local restaurants.
Dr. Candice Webert
Dr. Candice Webert is the daughter of Martha Ashton Webert and the late Charles L. Webert. She is a native of Shreveport. She is the assistant principal of instruction of Youree Drive Middle School in Shreveport. She develops curriculum for the district and presents at regional and national conferences. She is a past Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year in 2009 and a Transatlantic Opportunity Program ambassador who completed studies in Germany in 2016.
Dr. Webert is a member of Bright Star Baptist Church. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and has served on the executive board for two terms. She has been the scholarship chairperson for Delta Lambda Omega Chapter for six years, having overseen the awarding nearly $100,000 of financial assistance to deserving young ladies in northwest Louisiana.
Dr. Webert has been a member of the Beta Alpha Chapter of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Inc. since 2008 and became Soror of the Year in 2012. She has served as youth advisor, secretary, president, executive advisor, regional public relations chairperson, and is currently the treasurer. She serves the city of Shreveport as a member of the Future of Shreveport Education Transition Committee, under the Honorable Mayor Adrian Perkins. Candice earned her Bachelor of Science in education from Louisiana Tech University in 2005, Master of Education in administration from Louisiana State University Shreveport in 2007, and her doctorate in education from Louisiana Tech University in 2017.
Following a 10-year career as a local journalist, Devin White recently accepted a position teaching English at Captain Shreve High School. She began her career in media as a feature reporter for The Shreveport Times before serving as executive editor at SB Magazine from 2014 to 2019. She is on the board of directors for Dress for Success Shreveport-Bossier. She sits on the advisory councils for LSUS's Department of Arts and Media and BPCC's Department of Communication Media. She also is a member of the Shreveport Journalism Foundation and is an adjunct instructor at LSUS. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, kayaking and traveling with her husband, Jason.
Joysaline Young, LCSW, NSW-C
Joysaline Young, LCSW, NSW-C, or “Joy,” daughter to Gregory Young and Jacqueline Douglas, is a Shreveport-Bossier native striving to do what the Lord has ordered. Joy graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in social science with a concentration in sociology from Louisiana State University Shreveport. She achieved a Master of Social Work from Grambling State University, where she was in the top three of her cohorts. Joy was recently awarded first runner-up in Tampa, Fla., for a quality improvement study demonstrating how support systems are essential to healthy outcomes in dialysis-related treatment.
Joy is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in both Louisiana and Texas, with specializations in nephrology and psychiatric health. Joy has been successful in her five years’ tenure at DCI Shreveport and St. James facilitating over 27 kidney and pancreas transplantations. Joy is preparing herself to become a health-care executive, so she can assist health-care professionals in their efforts to deliver the finest care to patients and their families.
Joy loves the art of laughter and spends much of her time trying to laugh. Joy values family, integrity, optimism and God-fearing spirituality. She loves cooking, dancing, singing, painting, reading and time spent with family and friends. She is a member of Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, National Kidney Foundation and Young Professionals