Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette area People in Business for May 21, 2017


Turfgrass Producers International has appointed Karen Cooper to the new position of associate executive director.

She was curriculum specialist, developing adult learning training courses to meet the needs of the target audience, for the National Center for Biomedical Research Training/Academy of Counter-Terrorist Education at LSU. She served as senior manager of conference education for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America from 2007 through 2013, when she moved to Baton Rouge.

Cooper earned her bachelor’s degree in information technology from the University of Houston and a master’s in higher education administration from the University of Kansas.

Haggai Davis II has been named director of sales, information technology group, with EMCO Technologies.

Davis was previously director of sales at Gulf South Technology Solutions and has more than 25 years of experience in IT/telecom. He will be leading EMCO’s managed IT services, cloud-based solutions, computer sales and network design.

Karim Belhadjali has joined Abt Associates as a principal associate of environment and natural resources.

Belhadjali worked for 15 years in various positions at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, where he served as program manager for Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan and led a team of more than 70 scientists, geologists, economists and engineers on approaches to climate change adaptation and also managed the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

Belhadjali holds a master’s degree in fisheries from LSU and a bachelor’s in marine biology from Long Island University.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana has named Tamara Mayo as vice president of provider reimbursement and payment innovation and Kevin Maher as vice president of health care value transformation. Both are in the insurer’s provider networks and health care value division.

Mayo was director of finance and health care analytics for General Health System/Baton Rouge General Medical Center. She recently earned a master’s degree in health care delivery science from Dartmouth College and has undergraduate degrees in accounting and marketing from Louisiana Tech University.

Maher was Evolent Health’s vice president for national care management operations and clinical innovations. Maher has a master’s degree in health administration from Tulane University and an undergraduate degree from Holy Cross University. He earned his R.N. from Charity Hospital School of Nursing.

Red River Bank has named Henry Schexnayder as relationship manager, business/commercial senior vice president; Jessie Clark as vice president and mortgage loan originator; Brian Wilkinson as relationship manager, business/commercial vice president; and Audrey Schmolke as relationship manager-private banking vice president.

Schexnayder was market president for Whitney Bank in Baton Rouge and is returning to Red River Bank after a short retirement. Clark was with Whitney/Hancock Bank. Wilkinson was with IberiaBank. Schmolke has been Red River’s treasury management officer since 2013.


Lafayette General Health has appointed Joseph Mitchell as chief executive officer of Acadia General Hospital, effective June 26.

Interim CEO Glenn Dailey will return to his role as associate administrator.

Mitchell was president of Trinity Hospital Twin City in Dennison, Ohio, and had stints as CEO at River Valley Medical Center in Dardanelle, Arkansas, Eureka Springs Hospital in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Holdenville General Hospital in Holdenville, Oklahoma.

Mitchell holds a master’s degree in health services administration from Arkansas-Little Rock and a bachelor’s in nursing from Central Arkansas.


Jeff Wilke, managing director at SVN | Gulf Partners in New Orleans, was elected to a two-year term as the South regional director for the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, effective in October.

Wilke has 17 years of commercial real estate experience in sales, leasing and investments, holding several professional designations. He is a licensed broker in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The society has more than 3,100 members in 630 cities in 35 countries.


Valerie Briggs Bargas, a founding member of Kinchen, Walker, Bienvenu, Bargas, Reed Helm LLC in Baton Rouge, has been installed as president of the Louisiana Bar Foundation.

Other officers are Vice President W. Michael Street, a partner of Watson, McMillan Street LLP in Monroe; Treasurer Amanda W. Barnett, general counsel and corporate secretary for Red River Bank and Red River Bancshares Inc. of Alexandria; and Secretary Christopher K. Ralston, a litigation partner and litigation group coordinator at Phelps Dunbar LLP in New Orleans.