Lessons Learned

Leadership Jefferson connects local professionals and encourages civic engagement.

Each year, Leadership Jefferson—a program of the Jefferson Chamber Foundation—engages a new class of local professionals in a nine-month program designed to develop a diverse network of dedicated business and community leaders. Facilitated by a professional leadership team, Leadership Jefferson features interactive workshops that expose participants to local leaders and activists working to resolve critical issues facing Jefferson Parish. Here, we follow up with several past participants to learn how the program has helped to shape their professional journey.

 

Fred Preis, Senior Partner, Breazeale Sachse & Wilson, Labor & Employment Law Section

Fred Preis, who moved to the New Orleans area to practice law after leaving the military, was a graduate of Leadership Jefferson’s first class in 2003. Preis also helped to develop the content for the program. In addition to learning more about the Jefferson Parish community, he also became closer to those with whom he already worked. 

“Leadership Jefferson emphasized working with others to meet common objectives,” he said. “If someone wants to help the area positively advance, they need to get involved.”

Today, Preis is chair elect of the Jefferson Business Council, a member of the Jefferson Chamber and an adjunct professor at the University of New Orleans. He also teaches the Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Small Business Legal Clinic.

Beth Walker, CEO, Ochsner Baptist

Originally from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Beth Walker moved to New Orleans in 2002 after accepting an administrative fellowship role at Ochsner Health. A graduate of the Leadership Jefferson class of 2008, Walker has catapulted in her career ever since. “At that time, I was a director of clinic operations at Ochsner Medical Center,” she said. “In 2009, I became an assistant vice president over a broader array of services, before ascending to vice president, COO and now CEO of Ochsner Baptist.”

As a transplant to New Orleans, it was critical for Walker to understand her new community and find opportunities to contribute. “Learning about the facets that make any community great— especially Jefferson Parish—was incredible,” she said. 

Walker currently sits on boards of the Jefferson Chamber, World Trade Center of New Orleans, and Discovery Health Sciences.  “I will also serve on the board of Young Presidents Organization in 2023,” she said.

Michael Stanfield, Senior Vice President of Sales, New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans

Originally from New Jersey, Michael Stanfield moved to New Orleans with the Saints organization as director of ticket sales in 2000. In 2016, he moved into the role of senior vice president of sales for the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans.

A graduate of Leadership Jefferson’s 2014 class, Stanfield first heard about the program through the Jefferson Chamber and past members. “I saw it as a great networking avenue,” he said. “Leadership Jefferson taught me the importance of getting involved in my community and the importance of leadership.”

Today, Stanfield is involved in the Jefferson Leadership Council and the transition team in Kenner for the new mayor. He also is on the People’s Health Champion committee. 

Ajit “AJ” Pethe, Chief of Schools, Jefferson Parish Schools 

Born in India, Ajit “AJ” Pethe immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of seven and has lived in Jefferson Parish ever since. “I’m a proud graduate of the Jefferson Parish School System, attending Alice Birney, J.D. Meisler and Grace King High School,” he said. A graduate of Leadership Jefferson’s 2022 class (the 20th class of the program), Pethe was excited to learn about the parish on a deeper level.

Pethe, who began working as the Chief of Schools at Jefferson Parish Schools in July 2020, said that Leadership Jefferson helped him to better understands the interconnectedness of the school system with the stakeholders in Jefferson Parish. “We have been able to leverage various community partners, and business and industry leaders, to help improve outcomes for our students,” he said.  

“I wholeheartedly recommend Leadership Jefferson to other leaders in the parish,” Pethe added.