Business and media consultant Shanna Higginbotham will assume the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana reins from longtime Executive Director Jackie Lyle on Jan. 3.

Higginbotham, who worked as an internal consultant at Bizzuka Inc. from June 2009 until August of this year, is best known for her almost two decades at Cox Media. When she left Bizzuka, Higginbotham returned her attention to her Lafayette-based consulting business, Professional Consulting Partners. Higginbotham, who is 46, says she has long held a passion for the performing arts and even studied ballet in California.

The PASA job is also attractive to her because of the opportunity to have a broad impact closer to home. “I was born and raised in Lafayette and spent most of my professional career with Cox traveling all over the country and really not getting to contribute to the degree in Lafayette as I would have loved to over those years,” she says. “I traveled all over the country doing startups and turnarounds for Cox,” she adds. In her last five years with Cox — she left in 2007 — Higginbotham was working in New Orleans, overseeing all of Cox Media in the state, including about 200 employees in five offices. “It was close to home but not quite home,” she says. “I was always somewhere else. What I loved about PASA is the opportunity to serve the community and that’s really what it’s all about for me at this point in my life and career.”

Lyle, who in May told The Independent Weekly she planned to stay on as creative director after her replacement was found, declined to comment on the new appointment Monday morning. “No comment from me,” she said. “Our board doesn’t want to do this right now. I just asked.” In a followup email, Lyle wrote that the board was planning to make a formal announcement.

Higginbotham, who will begin attending PASA meetings this week, says Lyle will stay on for three to five months in a consulting role, transferring her depth of knowledge and contacts, and will then move on. “I really anticipate I will be making the executive director decisions and running it as the executive director right from the get-go,” Higginbotham says.

Lyle, who in the past 20 years shepherded the non-profit arts presenter from its inception as a small operation to the robust community entity it is today, has been a tireless advocate of bringing world-class performing arts to Lafayette — in particular exposing school age children to the media.  

“Jackie has wanted to step away for some time,” Higginbotham says. “She said to me she has a couple of different opportunities she’s thinking about. I don’t know what those are,” Higginbotham continues, adding that she fully expects Lyle to continue her contributions to Lafayette’s arts community in some capacity.

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