The head of the committee charged with finding Gerald Breaux’s replacement at the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission would not confirm the names of the two finalists, but sources close to the selection process say Renee Areng and Ben Berthelot are the only remaining candidates.
In terms of tourism experience, Areng, executive vice president for sales and marketing at the Baton Rouge Convention and Visitors Bureau, has the edge. She also was convention marketing manager at LCVC from October 1990 to November 2002. Berthelot is director of Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Community Development department.
The selection committee, which includes and was appointed by Hilton General Manager James Thackston (president of the LCVC board), is comprised of businessmen Rob Robison and Thomas Rogers and Holidome General Manager Ed Buchert. Thackston would not confirm the finalists Friday morning, saying the three candidates who did not make the cut may not have received their notification letters yet.
Susan Holliday, Mark Mouton and Dave Domingue were also semifinalists.
Areng and Berthelot are vying for the top post, executive director, which is opening up after almost 31 years due to Breaux's retirement.
Thackston chose the selection committee members based on their length of service on the board, according to Breaux. Ema Haq, who has been on the board since December 2001, however, declined to serve, saying he had too many other commitments. Both Rogers and Robinson joined in December 2003; and Ed Buchert joined in December 2005. Amos Batiste, whose service began in August 2008, was not named to the board because Thackston, who has been serving since March 2009, took a seat on the selection committee. The remaining board members are Lionel Prejean (3/3/09), Charlie Goodson (1/4/11) and Kendall Banks (12/21/10).
The LCVC board will meet in executive session to interview Areng and Berthelot on May 4. Thackston says no consideration was given to holding the interviews in the open, despite that this is a publicly funded position."We were told we didn't have to conduct the interviews in the full public," he says.
LCVC is supported by a hotel-motel tax in the parish. The bureau was created in 1974 to promote tourism and coordinate marketing efforts for Lafayette Parish.
The board hopes to make an offer May 1, with employment to begin no later than June 1.
Breaux will help with the transition process for about a month, as his last official day is June 29.
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