Learn about the candidates for the 2019 705 Board and cast your vote!
Desi Comeaux – Founder of Barkopolis Park + Pub
Favorite Local Restaurant: Charley G’s
Favorite Movie: The Family Stone
A Lafayette native, Desi is the founder of Barkopolis Park + Pub, a membership dog park and full-service bar, coming soon to Lafayette. An LSU grad and UL MBA, Desi began her career in marketing and public relations, developing corporate and non-profit events and communicating brand services to external publics and potential donors, before managing corporate finance for a local multi-million dollar company.
Desi is a strong proponent of business for a greater purpose and has built social giving into the Barkopolis business model, featuring local non-profits in community events and advocating for the important role non-profits play in a dynamic ecosystem. She also serves local organizations through board leadership, including Bckstry creatives organization, SpayNation for Dogs & Cats/Wild Cat Foundation, and the Acadiana chapter of the Public Relations Association of Louisiana, as Treasurer.
Desi has formerly served as acting executive director and board president for Lafayette Animal Aid, now Acadiana Animal Aid. She enjoys exploring new places with her husband David, a Texas-born Cajun, and spending time with friends and family enjoying the traditions, food, and revelry of the rich South Louisiana culture.
Nic Walts – Director of Policy at The Picard Group
Favorite Local Restaurant: Social
Favorite Movie: Wedding Crashers
Originally a native of California, I grew up surfing and playing beach volleyball but I traded in my board when I decided to go to LSU. I became fully immersed in all that Louisiana has to offer and developed an understanding and appreciation for the diversity in this State while working on various Gubernatorial and Congressional campaigns.
Nowadays, I tend to do more hunting and fishing, but still enjoy vacationing in places where I can jump back in the ocean. Having been an Eagle Scout, I love to go camping and hiking and I continue to volunteer with some of the local troops in our area. I am a Leadership Lafayette Class XXVIII graduate and sit on the Board for Junior Achievement of Acadiana. I have supported Lafayette Education Foundation’s ReProm as a court member, volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana, and was honored as a Daily Advertiser “20 under 40” award recipient. To complement my day job as Director of Policy at The Picard Group, I participate in the Governmental Subcommittee of OneAcadiana
Mick Essex – Senior Marketing Executive at Vantage Health Plan
Favorite Local Restaurant: French Press
Favorite Movie: Braveheart
Although I moved to Lafayette only last year, I am a lifelong Louisiana resident and have had business interests in the Acadiana region for the better part of 10 years. I grew up on a cattle farm on the Mississippi river working long hours, 7 days a week, and dreaming of playing big league baseball like my grandfather did. Early injuries thwarted that dream, but it did get me to college, and afforded me the opportunity to expand my capabilities and knowledge beyond ‘tending the cattle’.
I credit my student adviser at UL-Monroe for steering me towards a career in public relations and marketing and after 18 years in the profession, I can say I’m doing exactly what God put me on earth to do. In the early 2000’s, I worked for an executive recruiting firm in the healthcare industry with a client list that included the likes of Johns Hopkins, Baylor Health System and Memorial Hermann. A move to television/advertising in 2009 lead me to my current role with Vantage where I spend my days building our health insurance brand across all of south Louisiana by all marketing means necessary.
Casey Ardoin – Marketing & Communications Coordinator at LHC Group
Favorite Local Restaurant: Pamplona
Favorite Movie: Jurassic Park
Casey Ardoin is a communications coordinator at LHC Group, a national provider of in-home health care services, where she leads marketing projects and assists with the company’s media relations strategy. Prior to joining LHC, she served as a content strategy analyst for The Daily Advertiser and USA Today Network, helping newsrooms across the Gulf Coast identify and implement tactics to grow digital audience.
In her eight years as a journalist, Casey wrote and edited news stories, ran social media accounts and drove community engagement in three Louisiana newsrooms. In Lafayette, she organized Unfiltered, a millennial-driven, local election event, and helped bring The Storytellers Project, a live, first-person storytelling series, to Acadiana.
A Pineville native, Casey moved to Lafayette in January 2015. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Louisiana Tech University and is a member of the705 and The Junior League of Lafayette. She also volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana. You’ll often find Casey drinking craft beer and making educated guesses at pub trivia. She’s an amateur musician and avid consumer of all things sci-fi and fantasy, and frequently posts photos of her cat, Baelor, on Instagram.
Bobby Fruge – Owner of Under Pressure
Favorite Local Restaurant: Social
Favorite Movie: Elf
I was born and raised in Gueydan, Louisiana. Staying a little closer to home, I attended LSUE from 2005-2007 before moving to Lafayette in 2007 to attend ULL. I graduated with my business management degree in 2009 and shortly after enrolled to pursue my MBA. During my two years of graduate studies, I was a graduate assistant for the ULL dietetics department and for the Picard Center.
Upon graduating with my MBA, I began a position as a research associate for the Picard Center until 2012. In 2012, I took a position as COO for The Mahtook Company. My main responsibility was overseeing all operations for Talk N T-Shirts, which is a local screen printing, embroidery, and special advertising company.
In late 2016, I partnered with a good friend I met through ministry and we founded our business, Under Pressure. I currently own and operate Under Pressure. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, especially my amazing wife, Cecilia Fruge, and our golden retriever, Friday. (Friday is his name.) I’m very active in my church parish and the ACTS retreat. I absolutely love meeting and talking with new people, attending live music events, bringing people together and helping others.
Melissa Llewellyn – Owner of LINES Made Simple
Favorite Local Restaurant: Blue Dog Cafe
Favorite Movie: A River Runs Through It
Melissa is the owner/principal designer for LINES made simple, a residential design company here in Lafayette, LA. She is also the owner of Llewellyn Properties, LLC, which is a property management/real estate developing company here in Lafayette, LA as well.
Melissa was born and raised here in Acadiana and has raised her four children within its parish lines. When she’s not actively involved in our community, she is at a music festival enjoying the latest alternative/rock music or at a football game cheering on our local teams! Geaux Ragin Cajuns!
Callie Laviolette – Community Development Officer at Advancial Federal Credit Union
Favorite Local Restaurant: Bon Temps Grill
Favorite Movie: The Little Rascals
I like to consider myself a philomath due to my love of being a constant learner. I believe that there is something to learn from everyone you meet. I have a pretty serious podcast obsession and i’m intrigued with forming habits. My hobbies include running, biking, kayaking, hunting, attending local events around Acadiana as well as anything outdoors. #GeauxCajuns!
Christie Maloyed – Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Favorite Local Restaurant: Laura’s II
Favorite Movie: Lonesome Dove
Christie Maloyed is an associate professor of political science at UL-Lafayette. She teaches and researches in the areas of American, State, and Local Government, Civic Education, and Religion and Politics. She originally hails from the southwestern corner of Virginia, earned her Ph.D. in political science at Texas A&M University, and taught at universities in Texas and Nebraska before arriving in Lafayette in 2015.
Since then, she has been involved in the community as a member of the League of Women Voters and by providing regular political commentary for KADN-News 15, KATC, and The Advocate. She is a regular commentator on KRVSâ€™s Bayou to Beltway, and occasional guest host of that program, as well as a monthly columnist for The Current. In her downtime, she enjoys reading and being outdoors. She is a member of the Lafayette Master Gardener program as well as a beekeeper.
Jillian Dickerson – Post Admissions Specialist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Favorite Local Restaurant: Pop’s
Favorite Movie: Top Gun
Ragin Cajun alum. Coffee keeps me going. Community cheerleader. 6 year member of the 705. Proud momma and wifey who loves to travel and read. Fluent in sarcasm. I work in the Graduate School at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where I support graduate students on their journey to graduation.
Mary Cormaci – Project Manager at Rally Marketing
Favorite Local Restaurant: Taco Sisters
Favorite Movie: Zoolander
As Project Manager at Rally Marketing, my specialty is communications – whether it’s blasting an effective post on social media, strategizing a brand’s direction or one-on-one communication while managing projects internally. I like words. And I like people! Before starting at Rally in the account service department, I was blessed to work with a range of marketing strategies at LAGCOE, UL Lafayette’s magazine La Louisiane, the UL Sports Information office, and BUKU Music & Art Project. In my spare time I love getting involved in the community, traveling to music festivals, trying new food and beer and tie dyeing!
Jacob Groth – Senior Banker at IBERIA Bank
Favorite Local Restaurant: Social
Favorite Movie: Jurassic Park
I am originally from Lafayette. My wife, Madeleine, and I moved back two years ago after living in Jackson, MS and New Orleans. I graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson, MS with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration focusing on Entrepreneurship and Management.
I have 5 years of experience with IBERIABANK as a graduate of the Managerial Development Program, as a commercial analyst, and as a banker. I provide loan, deposit, and cash flow management options to both business and consumer clients. I volunteer with Acadiana Animal Aid and Boys and Girls Club of Acadiana. In my spare time, I enjoy fishing, hiking, and playing tennis.
Lauren Burns – Assistant Vice President & Bank Secrecy Act Officer at The Evangeline Bank and Trust Company
Favorite Local Restaurant: Tsunami
Favorite Movie: 500 Days of Summer
Currently residing in downtown Lafayette, Lauren Burns is a Natchez, MS native. In 2007, Lauren graduated from Mississippi State University where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Risk Management, Insurance, and Financial Planning and was an inductee into the MSU Hall of Fame for her work with Bulldog Bash. In June of 2018, she graduated from the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University where she served as Vice President of her class, and is continuing her education by pursuing her MBA at UL-Lafayette.
Lauren is actively involved in the Acadiana community and her professional community. She is a member of the 705, the Kappa Delta Alumnae Chapter of Acadiana, the MBA Association, and Club Blue. Lauren also serves as a member of the Communications Council – Marketing Committee for Junior League of Lafayette and is a member of Leadership Lafayette Class XXXI. Previously, Lauren has been involved in various leadership roles with the Natchez Young Professionals, the 2016 Leadership Natchez Class, the Mississippi State University Alumni Association, and the Natchez Area KD Alumnae Chapter. In her free time, Lauren enjoys relaxing with family and friends, watching college sports, and learning about her new home, Lafayette.
Matthew Thibodeaux – Owner of Matthew Aaron Agency
Favorite Local Restaurant: Pamplona, Tsunami, Central Pizza, Saint Street Inn, La Carretta
Favorite Movie: Vanilla Sky
I graduated from Westminster Christian Academy in 2002. I then went on to attend and graduate from Louisiana State University, with a degree in General Studies. After starting my career in New Orleans and finding my passion for digital marketing, I returned to Lafayette in 2011 to start the Matthew Aaron Agency.
In the past seven years, my team and I have worked on over 500 campaigns in a wide variety of industries. My philosophy for social media strategy, paired with my passion and support for local business, have been the driving factors for my commitment and dedication to my clients and ultimately the success I can bring to their business.