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TOP 20 UNDER 40

By Meagan Russell
In Center Block
Sep 9th, 2022
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THIS YEAR’S GROUP OF YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IS HELPING TO SHAPE THE FUTURE OF NORTHEAST LOUISIANA  PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLY MOORE CLARK

The Monroe Chamber of Commerce, the Northeast Louisiana Young Professionals and BayouLife Magazine are pleased to announce the 60 nominations for the 2022 Top 20 Twenty Under 40 Young Professional Awards. The Awards Reception was held Thursday, August 11th at the Monroe Civic Center Conference Hall. These individuals are advancing in their careers, active in the community and dedicated to making Northeast Louisiana a better place to live and work.  

Those nominated are: Mark Kent Anderson, Mid South Extrusion; Joseph Armstrong, Delta Fiber; Brandon Baker, Lifeshare Blood Center; Sophie Barksdale, Cummins & Fitts; Allie Brasher, Atmos Energy; Josh Carroll, SnapMe Creative; Darius Cooper, KickzThrone; Nicole Davis, State Farm; James Doughty, First Monroe; Markeaya Eaton, JPMorgan Chase; Amanda Elias, ULM; Dorea Elmadih-Flintroy, Monroe Regional Airport; Kimberly Essex, City of Monroe; Caleb Etheridge, Etheridge Pipeline & Conduit; Tyler Flemister, Marsala Beverage; DJ Fortenberry, City of Monroe; Brooke Foy, ULM & Arrow Public Art; Taylor Gaines, High Klass Hair; Anna Grimmett, The Center for Children & Families; Alisha Holland-Lawson, McCann School of Business & Technology; Dr. Brice Jones, ULM; Dylan Jung, NE Delta Human Services Authority; Corbin Legg, SERVPRO of Monroe & 318 Construction; Adicia Lewis, LA Department of Revenue; Harrison Lilly, THLT Realty; Morgan Livingston, Hudson, Potts & Bernstein; Michael Lofton, Reason & Theology; Anna Martin, Bank of Oak Ridge; Michelli Martin, City of Monroe; Katie Masters, Camp Quality Louisiana; Jamie Mayes, Jamie Mayes Educational Consulting; Kelsea McCrary, City of Monroe; Ashley McDonald, Heard, McElroy & Vestal; Riley McEacharn, Second Chances Addiction Recovery Center; Ashley McTurner, Newcomer, Morris & Young; Diamond Melton, Origin Bank; James Miles, Pelican State Credit Union; Chaniquel Miller, United Way of NELA; Brittany Myers, Drax; Hannah O’Briant, Atmos Energy; Lateef Odeyemi, Parkway Pharmacy & Parkway Pharmacy South; Tiffany Rials O’Neal, Sterlington Elementary; Gregory Pritchard, Green Qube; Charles Regian, VCOM-Louisiana; Bruce Rushing; Origin Bank; Tavaris Sanders, Amazing Transport; Kristen Shambro, Centric Federal Credit Union; Walt Silmon, Redeemed Auto Body; Shelby Sims, Thomas & Farr; Anne Marie Sisk, ULM; James Stephens, Reeves, Coon & Funderburg; Katy Temple, St. Francis Medical Center; Lee Thomason, Cochran, Clark & Thomason; Jessica Tico, Food Bank of NELA; Lyndsay Turner, Pure Drip Wellness; Dr. Lindsey Vincent, LA Tech University; Lezlee Vincent, Legacy Mobile Dysphagia Diagnostics; Dr. Dani Walker, VCOM-Louisiana; Marlon Watts & Nick Clark, WRLDINVSN; and CeCe Whitfield, Legal Aid of North Louisiana. 

Presenting sponsors is Origin Bank, Thomas & Farr, Reeves, Coon & Funderburg and BayouLife Magazine. Additional sponsors are City of Monroe, Etheridge Pipeline & Conduit, Heard, McElroy and Vestal, NAI Faulk and Foster, Progressive Bank, Strauss Interests, KTVE, Stephens Media Group, and The Radio People.

MARK KENT ANDERSON, JR
Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing – Mid South Extrusion

Mark Kent Anderson, Jr. is a lifelong resident of Louisiana, raised in Monroe, Neville High School Class of 2009 (Student Body President), graduated from LSU in 2014, then explored a career in commercial real estate while in Baton Rouge. In 2017, he returned to Monroe to start his career at his family’s business Mid South Extrusion. Since his start with the company, he has grown from a Corporate Sales Representative to a leadership position serving as Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing. “One is too small a number to achieve greatness.” – The Law of Significance.

BL: Tell us something about you most people don’t know.

Mark Kent: I was born in Durham, NC, at Duke Medical Center due to a genetic disorder called Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID), known as the bubble boy disease. I was the first baby in the world diagnosed in utero with SCID and cured at eight days old by a bone marrow transplant from my older sister, Ainsley.

BL: What do you do to ensure your growth and development as a leader?

Mark Kent: READ! I love the quote, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers,” by Harry S. Truman. I also enjoy attending leadership and communication seminars; they challenge me to think differently and highlight my deficiencies. Two leadership programs that I highly recommend are Leadership Ouachita and Leadership Louisiana.

BL: What advice would you give someone in a new leadership position?

Mark Kent: Get out of your comfort zone! Napoleon Hill said it best, “Strength and growth come through continuous effort and struggle.”

BL: What do you do to give back to your community?

Mark Kent: First and foremost, I ensure we are doing everything possible to care for our 200+ team members at Mid South Extrusion. My obligation is to our people, and I feel responsible for our team and their families. By doing this, I believe we are empowering our community as we continue to grow and create more opportunities in our area. Also, I believe in the missions of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of NELA, proudly serving on the board of directors for both organizations. 

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JAMES DOUGHTY
Pastor at First Monroe Baptist Church

James Doughty was born and raised in Rayville, LA. He graduated from LSU with a Bachelors in Kinesiology and received a Masters of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. James serves as the pastor of First Monroe Baptist Church. He is married to Kirstyn and they have two kids, Piper (6) and Chapal (4). 

BL: What do you hope to accomplish by age 50?

James:  I’ve always heard that it’s not how you start but how you finish. I want to be found faithful to my family, my church and this community. 

BL: How do you balance being a successful young professional and having a family?

James:  Being intentional. I’m still trying to find that balance but being intentional with date nights with my wife and family time with my kids.

BL: What do you do to give back to your community?

James:  I have partnered with Teach 1 to Lead 1 to help mentor students at Wossman High School. I love the opportunity to invest in the next generation.

BL: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

James:  Having the privilege to serve and lead First Monroe during this transition to our new location.

BL: What can Northeast Louisiana do to retain young talent?

James:  Continuing to provide opportunities for young people to lead and doubling down on what makes NELA great.

BL: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your college self?

James:  Keep your eyes on Jesus and don’t wait so long to ask Kirstyn out on a date.

BL: What is your motivation?

James:  The Gospel. I like the way Paul put in Corinthians 5:14-15: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

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DOREA ELMADIH-FLINTROY
Director of Operations
Monroe Regional Airport

Dorea serves as the Director of Operations at the Monroe Regional Airport. In this role, she works to maintain the Airport’s Operating Certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration through maintaining safe practices of airfield usage. Dorea earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture from Louisiana Tech University and has one year remaining for the completion of her Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from LA Tech. Dorea is currently studying and preparing to take the American Association of Airport Executive Certified Member (CM) written examination, which is the first of three steps to become an Accredited Airport Executive. This is a highly respected accreditation in the airport management industry. Dorea is married to Klarence Flintroy and mother of Almaz Flintroy who she refers to as “her entire world.” Dorea’s favorite quote is: “When you were born, you cried, and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”

BL: What do you hope to accomplish by age 50?

Dorea: By age 50, I would like to have become an Accredited Airport Executive and complete my degree in Civil Engineering. I would like to become the light at the end of the tunnel for those in need by mentoring them. If mentored, then you understand how powerful it can be to someone’s destiny. Lastly, I would like to learn a new language: French. 

BL: Tell us something about you most people don’t know.

Dorea: English is my second language; Arabic is my native language. To help those understand me better, as a freshman in high school, I learned English. I was the only girl at the school that graduated 8th grade. Due to my father’s encouragement and guidance, I persevered. 

BL: What is your motivation?

Dorea: My wonderful family. My husband has always made me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. He is very dependable in all aspects of our life. My husband takes the initiative to ensure I can focus whenever a task is at hand. He has always been there to push and encourage me to be the best I can be. My daughter, who is always on my mind when I am making any decisions. She admires and values me heavily. Lastly, I am very motivated by all those little girls from my home village in Sudan, Africa who are also watching and look up to me as their role model. I want them to know that women can do anything they put their minds to.  

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CALEB ETHERIDGE
Co-Owner and CEO
Etheridge Pipeline and Conduit

Caleb is the co-owner and CEO of Etheridge Pipeline and Conduit, and Etheridge Performance Cable. He is a graduate of LaSalle High School and Northwestern State University. Caleb currently resides in West Monroe with his wife Erin, pup Koda and cat Manny. They are also patiently awaiting the arrival of their first child, Hallie Elaine. In his spare time, you’ll find Caleb hunting, golfing or watching an LSU football or baseball game.

BL:  What do you do to give back to your community?

Caleb: Through EPC we sponsor and participate in many events, organizations and programs that have a positive impact in our community. We actively give to organizations such as United Way and Cancer Foundation League and we sponsor numerous local events and programs such as Leadership Ouachita. We lend our time and expertise on local boards such as the Monroe Chamber Technology Committee and we are a dedicated partner to Delta Community College; helping coordinate and facilitate workforce development programs to teach our local citizens the skills needed to land a well-paying job in the utility construction industry. We also are a vocal advocate for Rural Broadband Initiatives in our area.

BL:  What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Caleb: I think our partnership with Delta Community College to offer workforce development programs has really been something to be proud of. Just in the first offering of the Trenchless Utility Installation Technician course, we had six graduates go from having no knowledge of our industry to completing utility installations in six weeks. These guys were out there operating heavy equipment with precision it took me years to learn all because of the wonderful simulators and training LDCC offered. In that moment you realize this could be scaled and these skills could really allow people to lift their families out of financial struggle for the rest of their lives. Its easily our proudest accomplishment, and we’re just getting started with it.  

BL: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your college self?

Caleb: I would say find ambitious people who want to do good and make time often to be with them. And, leave the party at 12! Because nothing good happens after 12!

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TYLER FLEMISTER
Director of Marketing
Marsala Beverage

Tyler Flemister was born and raised in Monroe and has lived his entire life involved in the community of Northeast Louisiana. Growing up and after graduating from  Neville High School, Tyler attended ULM, where he played baseball from 2004 to 2007. After obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 2008, he began his career at Marsala Beverage. Over the 15 years, he has worked his way up through the company and now serves as the Director of Marketing. In this role, he oversees the marketing, advertising and community involvement for the company. He has worked with numerous nonprofits organizations, schools and groups, helping them raise money through donations and partnerships. He was recognized in 2019 as the ULM Young Alumni of the Year. Additionally, he serves as a board member for the ULM Athletic Foundation. Tyler volunteers as a coach and serves on the board of the Monroe Youth Softball League. Tyler has been an integral part of many local events. In the past, he has served as a board member for the Twin City Art Foundation and the NELA Red Cross.  Tyler is an active member of North Monroe Baptist Church. Tyler is married to Becky Flemister, and they have two children, Madelyn – 9 and Molly – 6. 

BL: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Tyler: It has been most exciting to grow and develop with the same company for the past 15 years. I seriously have the best job in the world. It was extra special to see Marsala Beverage transition into a new state of the art facility this past year.   I’m truly blessed to have the opportunity to work with the best co-workers and brewery suppliers in the beverage industry.  

BL: What can Northeast Louisiana do to retain young talent?

Tyler: Local industry is important. But it’s important to flex the muscles that we have while always looking for opportunities to do the small things to continue to grow and promote a strong sense of community.  

BL: What advice would you give someone in a new leadership position?

Tyler: The best advice I can give someone would be to listen to others. If you are the smartest person in the room, you are probably in the wrong room. Be open to having a teachable spirit. Embrace change and innovation in whatever field you may be in.  

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ALISHA HOLLAND-LAWSON
Director of Education and Career Services McCann School of Business

Alisha Holland-Lawson has been known by many titles: daughter of Frank Holland and San Bolden, wife of David Lawson, and mother of Kennedy and Nolan. Professionally, she is the Director of Education and Career Services at McCann School of Business and Technology. After achieving an honors diploma from Wossman High School at the age of sixteen, she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Louisiana Monroe. With Jesus Christ as her foundation, she believes education, hard work, and dedication are pillars of success, and she has applied these principles to her life.

BL: How do you balance being a successful young professional and having a family?

Alisha:  My family has always been an integral part of my life. Their support has helped me balance my personal endeavors while maintaining my most important roles of wife and mother.

BL: What do you do to give back to your community?

Alisha:  I educate individuals seeking personal success and support the Music, Women’s, Youth, and Education Departments of the Living Gospel Church where my uncle, Otis Holland, is the pastor, and my husband, David Lawson, serves as youth leader. This year, I will also assist the Young Leaders United Group of United Way NELA.

BL: What is your advice to recent graduates?

Alisha: Network, give back to others, and uphold your moral standards.

BL: What was your first job?  

Alisha: My first job was a tutor at Benoit Recreational Center.

BL: What do you hope to accomplish by age 50?

Alisha: I enjoy promoting the spiritual, emotional, and professional development of others. So, I hope to have assisted many youth, young adults, and future leaders in breaking spiritual, socioeconomic, personal, and generational barriers that have halted the success of many before them.

BL: What can Northeast Louisiana do to retain young talent?

Alisha: Be willing to hire and invest in individuals who may not have as much experience as others and provide incentives that neighboring states provide to their young talent.

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DR. BRICE JONES
Executive Director of Marketing and Communications
University of Louisiana Monroe

Brice Jones, a Mississippi native, serves as the Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at ULM. Trained as a historian of Early Christianity, he received his Ph.D. from Concordia University and his M.A. from Yale University. He is married to Meghan Jones, Director of Marketing and Communications at United Way NELA, and is father to Hadley (10), Leighton (8), and Carter (6). He enjoys bass fishing, deer hunting, woodworking, and spending time with his family. 

BL: What do you do to ensure your growth and development as a leader?

Brice: I am constantly seeking to learn new skills and knowledge to be more efficient as a manager of people and projects. Sometimes, this is learned through raw experience, but I am also blessed to have quite a few mentors in my life who have helped me along the way. 

BL: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Brice: As a very “green” scholar, fresh out of the academy, I was asked to serve on the editorial board of my discipline’s flagship academic journal. I served in that capacity for three years. 

BL: How do you balance being a successful young professional and having a family?

Brice: Janet Durden of United Way NELA once told me, ‘When you get home, take off your work coat, and leave it at the door.’ This is easier said than done, especially in a leadership role, and involves some give and take. But, I do my very best to reserve my time outside of work for my family.

BL:  What is your advice to recent graduates?

Brice: As my friend Charles Stevenson at Louisiana Delta Community College likes to say, ‘Skills pay the bills.’ Be hungry to advance your skills and competencies even if they are outside your comfort zone or current area of work. Interdisciplinary skills are especially helpful for projects that cut across various sectors.

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MORGAN LIVINGSTON
Associate Attorney
Hudson, Potts & Bernstein

Morgan Livingston was born and raised in Monroe, LA.  He is a graduate of Ouachita Christian High School, University of Louisiana Monroe and Mississippi School of Law.  Morgan is an associate attorney at Hudson, Potts & Bernstein and a real estate closing attorney for Hudson Lane Title Company. Morgan married his high school sweetheart, Ashleigh Livingston.  The couple has a little girl, Josie Livingston, and a baby boy, Max Livingston, on the way.  He enjoys spending time outdoors, whether it be hunting, fishing or playing golf.

BL: What do you hope to accomplish by age 50? Morgan:  I would like to accomplish more things that I can use to make difference in our community.  I was a 2018 Ouachita Leadership graduate, and that experience has inspired me to apply for Leadership Louisiana.  One of my goals is to be accepted to Leadership Louisiana and upon completion of the program, bring that knowledge and information back to Monroe to help improve our community.  I would also like to utilize these experiences to run for an elected position or possibly Judge one day.  Our elected officials are the voices of our community and there is no better place to make a difference.

BL: What was your first job?

Morgan: My first job was being a laborer for Rimcor, Inc.  My dad has worked for that company for 40 years and got me the job.  I worked on shutdowns in various paper mills and chemical plants in multiple states throughout the south.  Most of shutdowns occurred during the summer months and the majority of my work occurred inside lime kilns, which are essentially huge pipes with a flame thrower on one end.  Needless to say, it was also the hottest conditions of any job I’ve had to date.  The job taught me a respect for work ethic and a love for air conditioning that I have still today.  I owe all my motivation to finishing school and becoming an attorney to that first job.

BL: What advice would you give someone in a new leadership position?

Morgan: Lead by example.  To lead by example means to guide others through your actions and behavior.  Your actions and behavior should set the standard and expectations of behavior for the people around you.  Your purpose needs to be to using those actions to inspires others to produce similar behaviors.  It is always easier to tell someone what they should and shouldn’t do, but it’s showing someone by example that is a true quality of a leader.

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MICHELLI MARTIN
Media Relations Director
for the City of Monroe

Michelli Martin serves as Media Relations Director for the City of Monroe, before this job, she was Evening Anchor and Political Reporter for KTVE NBC 10 News in West Monroe. Michelli earned her Bachelors in Political Science from Louisiana Tech University and her Masters in Mass Communications from ULM. She is married and has a little girl named Elliott Monroe, named for the city where her parents met. One of her favorite quotes is something B.B. King said, “the beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” 

BL: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Michelli: One of the professional accomplishments I am most proud of is interviewing a sitting president. It’s on the bucket lists of many journalists and I am so proud I got to check it off my list before leaving television news. I love politics, especially Louisiana politics, and I have been blessed to interview several elected officials. It’s really crazy to now work on the other side of the camera.

BL: What can Northeast Louisiana do to retain young talent?

Michelli: NELA can retain young talent by ensuring they have a seat at the table where decisions are made. I am so fortunate to have a job wear my voice is not only heard, but given legitimate consideration. Another way to retain young talent is to create an environment they can see themselves planting roots and growing their family. An emphasis on improving and supporting quality of life endeavors must be supported. 

BL: What is your advice to recent graduates?

Michelli: If I could go back in time to talk to my college self, I would tell her to try more things. Go out and have more experiences and don’t be scared to fail. Apply for every internship, club that interests you, and opportunity! You will not get this time back.

BL: What is your motivation?

Michelli: My motivations are many. I am a 3 on the Enneagram Chart-I am driven by achievement. Long story short, I like to win, but I also want others to win, too. Most importantly, I want to be someone my little girl can be proud of.

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KATIE MASTERS
Camp Quality Louisiana,
Department of Children and Family Service Child Welfare

Katie Masters is married and has two children and three bonus daughters. She has worked for the Department of Children and Family Services Child Welfare office for 12 years. Katie attended the University of Louisiana Monroe to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and is currently working on her master’s degree. She also works part-time for an organization called Camp Quality USA. Camp Quality offers summer camps and year round support to children with a cancer diagnosis and their families. Her passion is working with families to ensure they feel supported during stressful times.

BL: What do you do to give back to your community?

Katie: My main focus is supporting families in Northeast Louisiana. In my role with DCFS, I support foster parents as they parent children who have come from abusive or neglectful situations. My goal is for all foster parents to know they have support and an advocate in their journey. With Camp Quality, I support families as they face challenges related to childhood cancer.

BL: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Katie: I am most proud of being named Social Worker of the Year by the Monroe Foster Parent Association a few years ago. To win an award that came directly from the people I serve was a huge honor.

BL: What do you do to ensure your growth and development as a leader?

Katie: To ensure my growth and development, I am constantly seeking opportunities to learn something new. I enjoy reading books on time management and organizational skills. I’m also currently a college student because I love challenging myself. I believe learning and challenging yourself is a great way to grow as a leader.

BL: Tell us something about you most people don’t know.

Katie: I love being outdoors. I enjoy hiking, kayaking, and camping. I have this terrible fear of heights, which doesn’t really match up with my love for hiking, but I still love it!

BL: What advice would you give someone in a new leadership position?

Katie: My advice to someone in a new leadership position would be to listen to the concerns and needs of others. Have a heart for the people you work with. Connection with others is key to being an effective leader.

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KELSEA MCCRARY
Chief Economic &
Cultural Development Officer,
City of Monroe

Kelsea McCrary is the Chief Economic & Cultural Development Officer for the City of Monroe. Her style of telling Louisiana’s stories elevates the artistic and cultural threads woven throughout each community and ties them deeply into the economic prospects of Louisiana’s cultural richness. Kelsea’s background includes leading the Cultural Districts and Civic Design program for the Louisiana Division of the Arts, creating the Public Policy communications brand at LUMEN Technologies and building out their Employer Brand function and serving as Director of Marketing for the University of Louisiana Monroe. Kelsea has grown arts organizations, programmed historic buildings, executed cultural events and quality of life initiatives, and led creative place-keeping projects throughout the state of Louisiana for over a decade. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Louisiana Monroe and a Masters in Public Administration from Louisiana State University. With a dog named Murphy, a cat named Cat, and a husband named Steven, she lives in Monroe and loves to run the levees of the Ouachita.

BL: Tell us something about you most people don’t know.

Kelsea: To be as extroverted as I am, I am a pretty private person…so it tends to come as a shock that I am, at my core, relatively goofy. Whether it’s consistently carrying too many things in my hands and leaving a trail of coffee through City Hall, or losing my keys every single day, I tend to overlook the smaller details of life. My mom is going to read this and not be surprised at all, because when I was growing up she dubbed me “Amelia Bedelia,” after the lovable yet clumsy and mischievous book character.

BL: What can Northeast Louisiana do to retain young talent?

Kelsea: Our collective cultural story is powerful, and it’s woven together in ways that we are still uncovering. We have so much to be proud of, and the more we can vocalize the good things, the more young talent will recognize the deep roots and the unlimited future that our region can offer. It might seem too easy, but branding and communication can solve many of the problems that we experience – good information is worth its weight in gold, and the trust it fosters is nearly unbreakable. We have had decades of headlines and external influence, so to speak, that have veiled our eyes to the beauty, downright coolness, and heritage of our home – it’s up to us to own that narrative and tell our story, as many times as it takes…even to ourselves.

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ASHLEY MCTURNER
President
Newcomer, Morris & Young Inc.

Ashley was born and raised in northeast Louisiana, specifically Monroe. Ashley attended college at the University of Louisiana Monroe and graduated with honors with her Bachelor’s in Business Administration. She is the current president of the Monroe Rotary and past president of the Ad Club of Northeast Louisiana and is an active member of the Junior League of Monroe. She is married to her high school sweetheart Matt McTurner and has 2.5 children, River 10, and Allie 7, along with new puppy Bullet. Ashley is being groomed to take over the family business, Newcomer, Morris & Young Inc, which has been in business since 1984.

BL: What do you hope to accomplish by age 50?

Ashley:  I hope to have grown the Ad Agency to provide more jobs for our community. I want to influence the lives of other professionals to invest in our community through community service or entrepreneurship.

BL: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Ashley:  I am extremely proud of being awarded the American Advertising Federation’s Silver Medal it recognizes men and women who have made outstanding contributions to advertising and have been active in furthering the industry’s standards, creative excellence, and responsibility in areas of social concern.

BL: What is your motivation?

Ashley:  My motivation is my family.  I want to set a good example for my son and daughter, by working hard and giving back to our community.

BL: What was your first job?

Ashley:  My first job was at 18 at Smoothie King on Forsythe. My mom said that as long as I played soccer, I didn’t have to get a job. The minute high school ended I started looking for a job. I loved working at Smoothie King learning about scheduling and inventory. My only complaint was they opened at 7am. I always managed to be on the morning shift.

BL: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your college self?

Ashley: Honestly, I would tell myself to take more relevant classes to my degree. I graduated in Business Administration but that can be general and more specialized courses would have been helpful.

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JAMES MILES
Business Development Representative
Pelican State Credit Union

James Miles was born and raised in Monroe, LA. He is the son to Ronshnea Baker. James is a graduate of Ouachita Parish High School. He is a graduate of Colorado Technical University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration Management and Master of Business Administration-Global Leadership. James currently works at Pelican State Credit Union as the Business Development Representative for North Louisiana. He is so grateful to be in role that allows him to empower individuals through financial knowledge. During the past year he has been focused on expanding the knowledge of financial literacy to surrounding rural communities. 

BL: What do you do to give back to your community?

James: My love for our community runs deep within me. I have the mindset that if one is suffering, we all suffer. That’s the reason why I am so passionate about bringing awareness of financial literacy to anyone I encounter. At Pelican, we believe that bad things happen to good people. Everyone deserves a second chance or a little help to get through this thing called life. I volunteer regularly at the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana. What they do to support our region is amazing, and I will forever support them. I also serve on the NELA Reentry Coalition to help create resources to ensure previously imprisoned individuals have what is needed to aid in a successful reentry back into society. I also assist with the new construction of the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum where I serve on the Board of Directors and Advisory Board member. 

BL: What is your advice to recent graduates?

James: Approach all aspects of your life with the mindset of being a student. Life has a way of forcing us to always evolve and if you are not teachable…then you may become useless.

BL: What do you do to ensure your growth and development as a leader?

James: I place myself in unfamiliar places that forces me to think outside my norm. Never become complacent with the things I have accomplished. Seek counsel from individuals who dwell in places I imagine to be and taking notes on what I need to do to get there.

BL: What advice would you give someone in a new leadership position?

James: Say less and listen more! Be open to learn and grow with your team. You all share the same journey so why not travel it together?

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BRITTANY MYERS
Deputy General Counsel 
North America for Drax

Brittany Stringer Myers is the Deputy General Counsel North America for Drax. Brittany received her BA in Communications from ULM graduating 1st in her class. She subsequently received her MA in Communications from ULM. Brittany then went to LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center where she earned her Juris Doctorate and Graduate Diploma in Comparative Law graduating Order of the Coif and 10th in her class. At LSU, Brittany was a member of the Louisiana Law Review where she served as Issue Editor. She is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association and has been practicing law for over 10 years in both private and in-house counsel roles.

Brittany is married to Justin Myers, an attorney at Hammonds, Sills, Adkins, Guice, Noah and Perkins, and is the proud mother to a 5-year-old son, Nolan Layne, and a 3-year old daughter, Lilah Mae.

BL:  How do you balance being a successful young professional and having a family?

Brittany: One of the most challenging aspects of being a young professional is balancing work and family. I believe it is essential to clearly communicate to your family that they are the most important. However, they must also realize that there are times when one is required to work or travel and that it is their job and responsibility. Time management and prioritizing are certainly important. It takes a village, and I’m very thankful for my family and friends that are a part of mine.  

BL:  What do you do to give back to your community?

Brittany: I serve on the United Way NELA Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Young Leaders UNITED cabinet. I love working with the United Way. I’m passionate about the United Way’s mission because I have personally seen the direct and positive impact that the United Way has on our local community, especially in regards to education, heath and financial wellbeing of individuals living in NELA. I’m also a supporter of the Food Bank of NELA, Chenault Aviation and Military Museum, Louisiana Purchase Zoological Society, and Twin City Ballet Company.

BL:  What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Brittany: I’m most proud of receiving the W.L. Hargrove Award for Outstanding Service. As most would assume, law school is academic focused. However, this award was chosen by fellow law school colleagues and faculty based on my service both to the community and my law school colleagues during my time at LSU law. 

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DR. LATEEF ODEYEMI
Owner/Operator
Parkway Pharmacy &
Parkway Pharmacy South

Dr. Lateef Odeyemi was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. He graduated from The International School of Ibadun. After high school, Lateef attended the University of Lagos in Nigeria where he received a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacology. After graduation, Lateef came to the United States where he obtained my second degree with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences. He then began pursuing his PharmD whichhe obtained in 2017 from the University of Louisiana Monroe. Lateef worked as a retail pharmacist for two years and knew he wanted to do more. He always had the mindset of being an entrepreneur in the medical field and that goal was achieved in August of 2019 when Lateef acquired Parkway Pharmacy and again in January of 2022 when he opened Parkway Pharmacy South.

BL:  What do you hope to accomplish by age 50?

Lateef: By the age of 50, I hope to grow Parkway Pharmacy into a chain in multiple states all offering the same outstanding services such as free delivery and vaccines. I also would like to continue advocating for the expansion of our field as pharmacists. We have the knowledge and tools to be successful and I feel we need to continue fighting for our provider status.

BL:  What can Northeast Louisiana do to retain young talent?

Lateef: I feel Northeast Louisiana can host more community networking events for entrepreneurs of small businesses and more internships in a wide variety of fields to retain young talent.

BL:  What is your advice to recent graduates?

Lateef: My advice to recent graduates would be to never forget that networking is vital. We should support each other and keep in mind that there is enough room for everyone on top regardless of race, age, gender or religion. I would also share that it is important to pursue your dreams and goals. I have learned firsthand that if your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.

BL:  What is your motivation?

Lateef: My biggest motivation is my family. I was raised to respect the value of hard work and to never settle for anything less than my dreams. 

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TIFFANY RIALS O’NEAL
Pre-K Teacher
Sterlington Elementary

Tiffany Rials O’Neal is a Pre-K teacher at Sterlington Elementary and has been teaching for 20 years. She received her Bachelor Degree from the University of Louisiana Monroe, her Master’s Degree from Louisiana College and her +30 Post Graduate Degree from the University of Louisiana Monroe. She has been a member of the Junior League of Monroe for the last eight years. She has served as Community Outreach Chair, Planning and Research VP, Membership VP, President-Elect and is currently serving as President. Tiffany was voted Teacher of the Year in 2017 and was featured in DeltaStyle as Women Who Shape the Delta in 2018. She also received the Sterlington Community Enrichment Award in 2021. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys reading, gardening and spending time with her 5-year old daughter, Sage Olivia.

BL:  What is your motivation?

Tiffany: My motivation is my 5-year old daughter, Sage. I believe children learn by example, and I try to be a good role model for her.  I want to inspire her to become a great leader and change maker for her generation. 

BL:  What do you do to give back to your community?

Tiffany: I am the current President of the Junior League of Monroe, and have been a member for the past 8 years. Our main focus is helping women and children in need. We sponsor several programs such as Cinderella Project, We Care, Care Closets along with many others that give back to women and children in need in our community

BL:  What do you hope to accomplish by age 50?

Tiffany: By 50, I would like to be a Curriculum Coordinator. I love the planning and research side of education. That is my goal in my career.  I would also still love to be making a positive impact in our community. Volunteering will always be an important part of my life.

BL:  What was your first job?

Tiffany: My first job was in high school at Miss Cindy’s School of Dance when I was in high school. Through this job I discovered my love of children which is why I decided to become a teacher.

BL:  What professional accomplishment are you the most proud of?

Tiffany: I am extremely proud to have received the Sterlington Community Award. I have been teaching for 19 years and love volunteering in our area. I was so excited to be recognized as a leader in our community.

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TAVARIS SANDERS
Co-owner, Amazing Transport

Tavaris Sanders was born and raised in Bonita, LA. He is the oldest of three siblings and a graduate of Delta High School in Mer Rouge. Tavaris later attended and graduated from The Hope Bible Institute in Baton Rouge, where he obtained a Doctorate in Theology & Religious Studies and is a licensed professional Christian therapist. Tavaris has been married to Miesha Sanders for thirteen years. The couple have four boys: Jaylen Wade (21) who is a senior at ULM, Javari Sanders (18) attends Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Ja’Bez Glosson (16) attends Bastrop High School, and Tahj Sanders (11) attends Ouachita Jr. High School. Tavaris is a memeber of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Monroe. He and his wife are the owners of Amazing Transport, LLC. 

BL:  How do you balance being a successful young professional and having a family?

Tavaris: I put God first, serving Him gives me the opportunity to put family and business under one umbrella.

BL:  If you could go back in time, what would you tell your college self?

Tavaris: Life has its up and downs, but stay the course and finish what you started.

BL:  What advice would you give someone in a new leadership position?

Tavaris: I would tell someone in a new leadership position that you have to work and know the business. There will be trials and tribulations, but don’t give up or don’t give in. It will be greater later.

BL:  What was your first job?

Tavaris: My first job was working for my dad in the summers fixing tires. He taught me the significance of what work really was.

BL:  What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Tavaris: I’m proud to have opened my own business and to be able to provide people in this community jobs with a competitive salary.

BL:  Tell us something about you most people don’t know.

Tavaris: Most people take me as a serious guy, but I am fun to be around once you know me.

BL:  What is your motivation?

Tavaris: God’s word, my wife and kids…and family overall.

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LEE THOMASON
Managing Partner
Cochran, Clark & Thomason

Lee Thomason is a shareholder of Cochran, Clark & Thomason, CPA firm in Rayville, LA. He is married to his wife Nikki and they have two children, Ali (12) and Tripp (9). Lee graduated from Riverfield Academy in 2004 and from ULM with degrees in accounting and finance in 2008. He obtained his CPA license in 2010 and Certification in Business Valuation (CVA) in 2012. Lee enjoys coaching/watching his children play sports, cooking, hunting, playing golf and spending time with friends and family. 

BL: How do you balance being a successful young professional and having a family?

Lee: It is tough, but I always try to prioritize my family. My work schedule is generally flexible enough to be at their ball games, school functions and spend time with them at home. I give my wife, Nikki, a lot of credit for helping me balance work and family.  

BL: What was your first job?

Lee: My first job was working Saturdays at a memorabilia store in Rayville called “Legends of the Game”. I collected baseball cards when I was younger, and the owners of the store were family friends. 

BL: What do you do to give back to your community?

Lee: I currently serve as the Chairman of the Richland Parish Chamber of Commerce, on the Board of Directors at Riverfield Academy and the Chairman of the Finance Committee at Rayville First Baptist Church. I served as the President of the Rayville Kiwanis Club in 2019. 

BL: What can Northeast Louisiana do to retain young talent?

Lee: We need to continue to invest in our schools, local universities, and trade skills. The other spot is economic development. We need to have a job waiting for our homegrown talent when they are ready to enter the workforce.  

BL: What is your advice to recent graduates?

Lee: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find mentors, co-workers and friends in your profession and ask questions when you don’t know the answer. I have been very fortunate to have great mentors, both in my accounting career and in other organizations that I serve. 

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DR. LINDSEY VINCENT
Associate Dean of Research, Outreach and Innovation in the College of Education and the Director of the Science and Technology Education Center at Louisiana Tech University

Lindsey Vincent grew up in Swartz, LA, and attended Ouachita Parish High School. She is a first-generation college completer and holds a B.S. in English Education, an M.S. in Adult Education, certification in Biology education, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership as well as certificates in Positive Psychology and Contact Tracing through Coursera. Lindsey currently serves her alma mater as the Associate Dean of Research, Outreach and Innovation in the College of Education and the Director of the Science and Technology Education Center (SciTEC) at Louisiana Tech University. She is a founding member of the LSU Health Sciences and Louisiana Tech University Digital Literacy and Well-Being Collaborative and has been PI or CoPI for multiple local, regional, and federal grants focused on education, workforce development, and outreach. She loves learning new things and traveling with her husband Matthew and their children. She thanks God every day for her many blessings and tries to give back to a community that has given so much to her.

BL:  What was your first job? 

Lindsey: My first paid gig by an outside employer was a perfume sprayer for Unilever in Pecanland Mall. In fact, at $12 an hour decades ago, it was quite a highly paid job for a high school student. I simply stood by the counter and offered to spray a new fragrance for others to try. I learned quickly when to push for a sale or when to step back and revisit my strategy. My first unpaid job was an interesting and formative one, too, as it included writing prices on neon cardboard star stickers for my dad to use on coolers when he sold wine and spirits. I think he had me help with this activity to keep me busy as to not distract him so he could get his work done.

BL:  What do you do to give back to your community? 

Lindsey:  I have had the privilege of serving on a number of leadership teams and councils. Most recently I was appointed by Governor Jon Bel Edwards to the Louisiana STEM Advisory Council, am serving on the advisory council for the Louisiana Center for Afterschool Learning, and am serving as a member of the Parent Faculty Council at my children’s school. We are also charter members of Ruston’s Krewe of Pomona, and I have also recently joined the United Way’s Young Leaders.  

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DR. DANI WALKER
Director for Medical Education
VCOM-Louisiana

Dr. Dani Walker serves as the Director for Medical Education for VCOM-Louisiana, located on the campus of ULM. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education, a Master of Education Degree in Educational Leadership and Technology, and an Educational Doctorate in Higher Education Administration. She has been married to her husband, Wade, for five years and has a son, Preston, 3, a daughter, Celia, 2, and two dogs, Riley and Roux.   

BL: Tell us something about you most people don’t know. 

Dani: As a child, I spent summers “working” in the fields with my dad who owns a diesel mechanic business that specializes in farm equipment. I mostly ate his snacks and complained about the heat, but today one of my favorite things to do on any given Saturday morning from April to October is travel to the fields with my husband who consults for local farmers.  

BL: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? 

Dani: The professional accomplishment that I am most proud of is completing the Leadership Ouachita Program with the class of 2021. The connections made through this program opened a wide variety of doors for me to become more involved in our community. I became involved with both boards that I presently serve on through connections made in this program. 

BL: What do you do to give back to your community? 

Dani: I serve on both the Louisiana Purchase Zoological Society Board as Secretary and the Louisiana Purchase Council Boy Scouts of America Executive Board as Vice President of Membership. I am passionate about both organizations and look forward to growing in these roles in the future.

BL: What was your first job? 

Dani: I began working as a lifeguard at the Winnsboro town pool at the age of 14. 

BL: What can Northeast Louisiana do to retain young talent? 

Dani: Northeast Louisiana can retain young talent by continuing to grow a family friendly community. Our family spends most weekend mornings playing at Forsythe Park or strolling the Garden District. We also love the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum and the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo. Those places help create lifelong memories for families.