Archive for August, 2017

Ruston Native Wins National Travel Award




BATON ROUGE, La. – The U.S. Travel Association named Louisiana Office of Tourism Assistant Secretary Kyle Edmiston their State Tourism Director of the Year for 2017 during the annual Education Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) conference held this year in Minneapolis, MN. ESTO is the premier annual professional development gathering for destination marketing professionals.

“It’s no surprise Kyle received this prestigious award,” said Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “Five years of record-breaking visitation numbers to Louisiana and new, exciting initiatives rolled out to increase the visitor’s experience are just a few reasons this award is well-deserved. I also want to applaud our tourism staff, travel partners, and the U.S. Travel Association for working with us to attract new and returning visitors to get that unique, authentic Louisiana experience.”

“Louisiana tourism numbers are stronger than ever thanks to Kyle and his team at the Louisiana Office of Tourism, and this award is an acknowledgement of his years of outstanding work and commitment to our industry,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Kyle’s forward thinking commitment to increasing international and out-of-state visitation to Louisiana has done wonders for the state’s economy. Quite simply, he is proof that state tourism promotion works. Kyle’s incredibly effective advocacy for travel to Louisiana has greatly benefited not just the people of Louisiana, but the entire southern region and our nation’s economy as a whole.”

In his role as Assistant Secretary, Edmiston oversees the Louisiana Office of Tourism’s promotion, marketing, and selling the state as a desired travel destination to domestic and international visitors. Under Edmiston’s oversight, Louisiana has seen record-breaking numbers each year for visitation, spending, and tax revenue generated for the state. Since 2012, the number of visitors to Louisiana has doubled, from 24.3 million in 2012 to 46.7 million in 2016. During that same time, visitor spending increased from $10.1 billion to $16.8 billion and annual tax revenue generated for Louisiana increased from $719 million to $1.04 billion.

Edmiston was instrumental in bringing a renewed focus on the international traveler, leading to an increase of 36 percent in international visitation in 2015, the second-highest of any state. Additionally, Edmiston worked tirelessly to bring the U.S. Travel Association’s premier travel marketplace, IPW, to New Orleans in 2016. As part of the events for IPW, he worked with CVBs and travel partners around the state to coordinate seven familiarization trips for tour operators and media reaching every corner of Louisiana.

To further promote and increase international visitation to Louisiana, Edmiston collaborated with a team of industry influencers to land new, direct air service into New Orleans. In March 2017, British Airways began direct service four days a week from London’s Heathrow Airport to Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. Starting in November, British Airways will increase service to five days a week. Then, in May 2017, Condor Airlines began flying seasonal flights, May through September, from Frankfurt, Germany, to New Orleans. This new air service are the first direct flights from Europe to fly to New Orleans since being suspended following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Also under Edminston’s leadership, the Louisiana Office of Tourism received six national awards including: State Tourism Office of the Year; a Gold Adrian Award in Digital Marketing Excellence for Destination Recipe Video Series; three Mercury Awards for Best Travel Website, Best Social Media Campaign and Judges’ Choice for Best Overall Campaign for Destination Recipe Video Series; and an American Advertising Award—Judges’ Choice Digital Marketing for Louisiana Libations.

On a national level, Edmiston is the immediate past chairman for Travel South USA’s board of directors and serves on the board of directors for Brand USA and the Southeast Tourism Society. He also serves on U.S. Travel Association’s board of directors executive committee.

“Kyle has been the ultimate state partner for New Orleans. Never before have we had so many joint partnerships, international successes, and such a united approach to presenting and innovatively marketing New Orleans and Louisiana together to the world. No one has ever been as deserving of an award as this recognition of Kyle,” said New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Stephen Perry.

Mark Romig, Chairman of the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association Board and President and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., praised Kyle for his accomplishments and successes. “We could not be more proud of Kyle and his accomplishments. He is one of the first state directors to partner Brand USA with our fellow Louisiana DMOs to create a cooperative international marketing effort which, in one year, increased our international business 34 percent! In the five years since Kyle has led the Office of Tourism under the direction of the Lieutenant Governor, Louisiana has set new records each year for visitation, economic impact and state tax revenue generated. As you know, that’s not an easy feat in today’s economic environment, and our year ahead looks even more promising.”

“The growth our Louisiana tourism industry has seen is nothing short of remarkable and has come as a direct result of Kyle’s leadership, creativity and desire to create strong, lasting partnerships in both domestic and international marketing,” said Jill Kidder, President and CEO of the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association. “In his more than five years in the leadership role, the Louisiana Office of Tourism has steadily set new records, including a nearly 45 percent growth in state tax revenue generated by the industry. These significant accomplishments under Kyle’s leadership have raised the profile of Louisiana’s tourism industry in the eyes of our elected officials and continue to successfully communicate the industry’s strong return on investment.”

“Kyle has played an important and major role in leading the State’s tourism efforts and promoting Louisiana as the culinary and cultural destination. We wouldn’t be where we are today without his expertise and we look forward to working together with him on many more endeavors.” Paul J. Arrigo, CDME, Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO.

“Kyle is a tremendous leader in Tourism and I am proud to call him my friend. He has great vision, and relationships across the country which benefit us all,” said Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission President and CEO Ben Berthelot. “Most importantly, he always answers the phone when I and colleagues across the state call, which is most appreciated. All of us in Lafayette, the Happiest City in America, congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”

“Assistant Secretary Kyle Edmiston has a heart for promoting everything that is unique in Louisiana. He consistently reaches out to tourism partners across Louisiana and creates programs and partnerships to bring out the best of who we are as a state,” said Shelley Johnson, executive director of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A native of Ruston, LA, and graduate of Louisiana Tech University, Edmiston served as Director of Alumni Relations at Louisiana Tech and President and CEO of the Ruston-Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he led efforts increase visitation to Ruston and Lincoln Parish.

“Kyle could not be more deserving of this honor. He has been a friend and mentor to me for about 15 years, dating back to his pre-tourism days. His rise within the industry has been fascinating, and is a testament to his passion for travel and tourism. His display of industry knowledge and unending desire to not be satisfied with the status quo make him respected industry wide,” said Travis Napper, President and CEO of Ruston-Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“This award speaks to the leader that Kyle has been for Louisiana’s tourism industry. I had the pleasure of working with Kyle while he was President and CEO of the Ruston Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I saw his dedication to our industry every single day,” said Timothy Bush, President and CEO of Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou. “Since becoming the Assistant Secretary, he has continued to be a strong advocate and positive voice for promoting Louisiana and all that it has to offer. Kyle is a shining example of an industry leader. I’m very proud to call him a friend and mentor.”

A panel of state and U.S. territory tourism directors nominate candidates for State Tourism Director of the Year. Three finalists are then selected by ballot. The U.S. Travel Association’s National Council of State Tourism Directors votes on the award prior to ESTO.


Hearing set in BR on Jackson Parish Hospital Lawsuit


An August 30 hearing has been scheduled in 19th Judicial (East Baton Rouge Parish) District Court in Baton Rouge to rule on whether an injunction will be granted that would declare Act 171 unconstitutional. Originally, the hearing was set for 9:30 AM this morning.

The hearing will be in Judge Timothy Kelly’s courtroom.

See here the court documents.

The injunction would prevent the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) from appointing members to the Jackson Parish Parish Hospital Board of Directors in accordance with the act.

The legislation, signed by Governor John Bell Edwards last June, restructures the hospital’s governing board to five members from seven, and places qualifications on new appointees. Several new appointments have been made to the board, which recently met.

Plaintiffs claim in the suit that the legislation deprives them of equal protection of the law in violation of the U. S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Plaintiffs in the suit include Herbert Simmons and Windy Calahan; and two police jurors, Maxie Monroe and John McCarty.

Representing the plaintiffs is Baton Rouge attorney Ernest Johnson.

Defendants include Gov. Edwards and the Jackson Parish Police Jury.

Last week, the jury hired Alexandria law firm Gold Weems to represent them.

Mays Rape Conviction Upheld by 2nd Circuit


Louisiana’s Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, in Shreveport, this morning affirmed the April, 2016 conviction of Cameron Mays for the June, 2012 rape and kidnapping of a Lousiana Tech University coed.

Wrote Judge Harmon Drew:

The evidence in this horrific case is overwhelming. Each of the three convictions is amply supported by this record, including, inter alia:

–  the victim’s testimony;
– the defendant’s fingerprints found on the condom wrapper;
–  the DNA evidence;
– his admission to his cousin that he had sex with the victim;
–  and his inculpatory words overheard by Ms. Daye.

While the record indicates that a second intruder was present, S.K. testified that only one man raped her, drove with her, and twice held a gun to her head.

Mays still faces a murder charge for the killing of Susan Hashway, who was found dead in her Paynter Drive home several days after the rape and kidnapping.

See here the court’s ruling.

More on LPPJ Meeting


There was a bit more to last Tuesday’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) meeting than the tax vote. Two committees were set to meet, but only one had a quorum and could conduct business.

The Public Property & Building’s Committee met as scheduled and approved the appointment of Mike Walpole as architect for a proposed expansion of the Lincoln Parish Detention Center. An architect is necessary to assist in the application for a Rural Development Loan.

The jury is contemplating borrowing the approximately $3.5 million to add about 100 beds to the jail.

The committee also extensively discussed a proposal to renovate the Lincoln Parish Court House. It was suggested that engineers/architects be solicited for ideas and suggestions on what could be done and some preliminary cost estimates.

Among the possible renovations are roof, windows, exterior, elevators, and if any expansion to the existing building is possible from a structural standpoint.

District Seven’s Jody Backus suggested that a complete new courthouse ought to be compared cost-wise to renovation.

Said Backus, “We really ought to throw in a comparison, a heads up comparison, of rebuilding versus remodeling.”

District Six’s Walter Pullen said, “You can either try to come up with eight to ten million dollars over five or six years to to fix it up and make it nice, or you can to figure out where you’re going to get twenty million dollars to build a new court house. And, I don’t think you’re going to get twenty million dollars to build a new court house.”

Time ran out on the meeting, so no action was taken on the proposal.

The Finance Committee meeting was not held, as a quorum wasn’t present.

It is notable that the two missing committee members – District One’s Theresa Wyatt and District Ten’s Nancy Wilson – represent the districts that a lawsuit filed a year ago claimed “no representation on any committees that determine how Lincoln Parish tax dollars are spent.”

Ruston Dentist Not Guilty of Insider Stock Trading


Ruston dentist acquitted of insider trading related to sale of Shaw Group in Baton Rouge

BY JOE GYAN JR. | Aug 10, 2017 – 4:15 pm

A Ruston dentist whose brother-in-law worked at the Shaw Group was acquitted Thursday on federal insider trader charges relating to the 2012 announcement that Shaw was being acquired by CB&I.

Jesse H. Roberts III was found not guilty on one count each of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He did not testify in his own defense.

Federal prosecutors had alleged that Roberts reaped a $700,000 profit from confidential information allegedly provided by his brother-in-law, Scott David Zeringue.

Zeringue was vice president of construction operations for Shaw when he claims to have passed confidential information to Roberts in July 2012 about the impending sale of the Baton Rouge-based engineering and construction firm.

Roberts’ attorneys claim information about the planned sale of Shaw to Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. had been leaking out and that Roberts, an experienced trader, used information available to the public to invest in Shaw stock options and hit it big.

Roberts allegedly told another Ruston resident, Billy J. Adcox Jr., about the information he received from Zeringue. Adcox was indicted in 2015 and is awaiting trial, accused of turning a $37,000 profit from his alleged insider trading activities.

Lincoln Jury Votes to Keep Property Tax Rates Steady


The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ), on an 8-2 vote, kept millage rates the same as last year on one of the property taxes seized from parish property owners. The action came at last night’s regular monthly meeting of the jury.

The General Alimony, a tax levied that can used for “any public purpose” was for 2016 levied at 1.68 mils for residents inside Ruston city limits, and 3.37 mils for those residents outside. Legally, the jury could have rolled those rates up to 1.82 and 3.65 mils if they so chose. The roll-forward would have resulted in an additional $100 thousand in total taxes seized from property owners.

Voting for the roll-up were Hazel Hunter and Sharyon Mayfield.

Voting no were Bobby Bennett, Randy Roberson, David Hammons, Walter Pullen, Jody Backus, Skip Russell, Nancy Wilson, and Annette Straughter.

Theresa Wyatt and Joe Henderson were absent.

The vote came after a public hearing on the tax ordinance that heard some pointed comments about taxes and government spending from Ruston resident Lou Taylor.

Taylor lamented the burden of property and sales taxes, and where the money goes.

Said Taylor, “So many of here don’t know what’s happening with the money, and we don’t want any more taxes. We can’t buy groceries, we can’t buy medicines, we can’t buy cars, because we’re paying almost 11 percent in this city and parish in sales taxes.” She added, “We just need to know what is happening with the revenue that is available to this police jury, and I feel the same way about the (Ruston) City Council. There comes a limit when people can just keep paying and paying.”

Taylor also questioned why the parish detention center keeps so many prisoners and needed so much money.

She asked, “Why are so may held before they can be adjudicated? They can’t work, they can’t do anything. Is that our court system, is that our DA, or is that the laws – what is it?”

Jury President Randy Roberson noted that the dedicated 1/4 cent sales tax provided only about half the money needed to operate, and that the money paid by the state to house state prisoners helped pay expenses.

In point of fact, the jail’s budget has doubled since Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone took over operation from LaSalle Corrections several years ago. Most of that increase can be attributed to increased payroll.

See here our news story earlier this year documenting the jail’s budgets.

Juror Skip Russell noted that of every dollar of total property taxes levied in Lincoln Parish, the jury collects only 14 cents, compared to the Lincoln Parish Schools Board’s 52 cents.

Said Russell, “If we need to look at cutting taxes – and I think we always need to look at that – we need to look at a number of different agencies in Lincoln Parish.”

The rollback/roll forward exercise will be repeated at the September 12 meeting for the jury’s dedicated (roads, library) property taxes.

We will be there to cover the meeting.

Cooktown Road Development Hearing Set


A public hearing has been set for Monday, September 11 on an ordinance creating the Cooktown Road Economic Development District. That date is the regularly scheduled September meeting of Ruston’s Board of Aldermen.

The ordinance was introduced at last night’s council meeting.

There was a bit of public comment by Cooktown Road resident Robert Sauber, after a companion resolution to the ordinance was put on the table for discussion.

Sauber said the quality of life has been diminished in the neighborhood because of the increased business development and attendant traffic.

“Isn’t there somewhere else in Ruston they can develop, rather than just on Cooktown Road?”

Mayor Ronny Walker said that anytime the city has growth, there are traffic issues, but they try to improve traffic flow when that occurs. He added that there was other new development, notably on the east side of Ruston with the service road extension to Rough Edge Road.

“We try to address those as quickly as we can; that’s the reason we added that turn lane, (on Cooktown Road)” Walker said.

Sauber was an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor in 2010 against incumbent Dan Hollingsworth.

In other business, the council approved rezoning a 28 acre tract on South Barnett Springs Street to allow development of single-family houses on smaller lots. The lot size requirement was reduced from 25 thousand square feet (just over 1/2 acre) to 10 thousand (just under 1/4 acre).

Mayor Walker also announced that the Dixie Youth Baseball League World Series will be coming to Ruston in the summer of 2019. The new sports complex is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

See here the announcement.

LPPJ Appoints Treasurer


Megan Wiens, a Farmerville resident and University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) Business Administration graduate, was appointed Treasurer of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) at last night’s special called meeting. Most recently, she was Business Manager at the Union Parish School Board.

She was one of six finalists interviewed for the job, and one of two who has had prior governmental accounting experience.

Asked why she applied, Wiens said, “I think Lincoln Parish is growing, and it’s something I would be interested in being a part of.”

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Meetings This Week


Two Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) meeting are set for this week: the regular committee and jury meetings, and a special called meeting for Monday. The Monday meeting is to interview the prospective hires for Parish Treasurer.

Special Meeting – 4:00 PM, Monday, August 7


Finance Committee – 6:00 PM, Tuesday, August 8


Public Property & Buildings Committee – 6:30 PM, Tuesday, August 8


Police Jury – 7:00 PM, Tuesday, August 8


All meetings will be held at the Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Half Cent Sales Tax to Fund Cooktown Road Development District


Cooktown Road Economic Development District

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker’s administration is proposing creation of an economic development district at the northwest corner of Cooktown Road (LA 544) and Woodward Avenue (1-20 North Service Road).

The matter was mentioned at the July meeting of the city’s Board of Aldermen.

Along with the district, an additional half-cent sales tax would be levied for the purpose of “financing economic development projects located within the district,” and “to pay the costs of infrastructure improvements outside the district that benefit property in the District.”

Presumably, the tax would be levied on purchases made at businesses that locate within the new district.

See here the proposed resolution and the proposed ordinance.

The two proposals will be considered at next Monday’s meeting of the council.

See here the agenda.

The meeting is set for 5:30, Monday, August 7, at Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.