North Louisiana Economic Partnership COO Angie White
Written by Megann McDaniel
Angie White is Chief Operating Officer of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership, a regional economic development organization serving 14 parishes of North Louisiana. She joined NLEP in 2008 to start a new workforce program and has held many roles there since, working closely with companies throughout the region to expand and grow. In 2013, she earned the designation of certified economic developer. In her spare time, Angie is a passionate cook and loves to support the local restaurant scene. She fell in love with gardening upon moving back to Shreveport from Washington, DC in 2006 and buying a house with a yard, sometimes even growing her own food. She is a proud cat mom, with orange tabby Alice Cooper being heavily featured in her social media feeds. Angie is an alumna of Centenary College of Louisiana (1993) and has served as National Alumni Association President, and she earned two master’s degrees from The George Washington University (1998).
ANGIE WHITE / LOLA
I was first introduced to you through Slow Food. For those unaware, can you define/explain Slow Food? How and why did you get involved? What is your favorite event you have participated in related to Slow Food?
Slow Food is an international organization born in the mid-1980s. It was a protest to the opening of the first McDonald’s in Rome, Italy. An Italian journalist was sent to cover it and was offended that Italy makes the best food in the world and yet they were celebrating food that was fast, easy, cheap, and not real food. Slow Food is a celebration of real food and the people that grow and prepare it. Slow Food North Louisiana is an official chapter of Slow Food USA. We are one of the top performers nationally during membership month.
I joined Slow Food in 2005 when I lived in Washington, DC. I learned about it at my neighborhood farmer’s market. Not long after I returned to Louisiana in 2006, two local women started the Slow Food chapter in North LA. I got connected and involved. Our chapter is completely volunteer run, there are no paid employees. Our board includes a wide variety of local people who care about our mission of supporting foodways that are good, clean and fair for all. We encourage the growing, cooking, consumption and appreciation of real food.
I love that because of Slow Food I have so many chef and farmer friends, and have met people from all over the community that are passionate about real food. Fete on the Farm is my favorite event we put on each year, it is a dinner at Mahaffey Farms featuring different chefs each year.
It appears you received your education as well as started your career elsewhere. What brought you back to Shreveport? What keeps you here?
After graduating from Centenary College, I moved to Washington, DC for graduate school at the George Washington University and while in school got a job doing what I was studying, Latin America economic development. I returned to be closer to my grandparents who were having increasing health issues and needed more attention. Most of our family had moved away, and since they were instrumental in raising me, it was not a hard decision to come back and take care of them in their final years. I was able to spend 4 years with them before their passing and I am so glad I did.
I have stayed in Shreveport because the jobs that I have had as a professional have all been project oriented and can be very demanding, different every day. At the end of the day, I just want to relax, and my home is a sanctuary for me. The idea of upheaving it and moving again is not appealing. Nor is the idea of having to create a whole new network of friends. I did not grow up with siblings (I have several now, that’s a great story). My friends from childhood are the equivalent of my siblings, and most of them moved back around the time I did. And now I have much more family here. I also find it very easy to live in Shreveport. It is easy to get around – I did not have a car for 12 years in DC because it is a traffic nightmare – housing is affordable, and there is always something to do. In DC, I lived in a 400 square foot condo for 12 years. Here, I can afford to have a home with a yard. It is a very livable city.
You are a COO! That is rare for a female. What has been your experience working as a driven female? Have there been any mentors, role models, or hurdles?
My drive comes from the very hard-working people, mostly women, that raised me and were my first role models. My family was not necessarily in professional roles but were all hard working. When I was 15, I went to work at the restaurant my mother managed. I then worked for a local chiropractor, Dr. Diane Sino, through high school and part of college. Diane was a great mentor and role model. In DC, I had the pleasure of working for some impressive individuals with internationally significant backgrounds. Even though these were high level individuals, they were accessible and willing to help mentor and grow the young people on their team, which was very diverse. They also gave helpful constructive criticism, which is something people in the south shy away from. Although it can be hard to deliver and to hear, it can be very helpful professionally.
You seem to be a big cheerleader of Shreveport (as am I). What do you think are some of the most underrated, underappreciated aspects of our town? How do you think we could help others in and outside of our community learn to appreciate these things?
An underappreciated aspect of our community is the willingness of people here to support people in trying new things and taking chances, especially in the arts but not exclusively. I remember a comment from one of the highly talented artists that moved here years ago to work for Moonbot Studios who said it was so easy to make their art here outside of work, all around the city, because people just opened their doors for them and embraced their ideas.
A challenge of our community is we are not clustered in terms of things to do. Our community would benefit from creating centers of activity, clusters of eating, drinking and entertainment. An example would be the East Bank District in Bossier City. When we make it easier for locals and outsiders to find the things they like to do, we will be doing our city a huge service.
An idea I have pitched is creating SBC (Shreveport Bossier City) Sherpas. The sherpas would be volunteer community members trained to help those new to or moving to our community on how to find the things they are interested in and get connected. We could pair them up based on common interests.
When you have guests in town, where do you take them, where do you eat? Explain your view of Shreveport that you love to share.
Ki’ Mexico for food. Hands down, easiest answer. Always a win and they always want to come back, even just for the food. I have friends that live in cities like Dallas and Austin whose favorite restaurant is Ki’ Mexico. Also, we have local events and festivals happening all the time. I look for things like that to take them to and experience the local culture.
You are involved with a lot of charities. How you decide which to engage with and why?
I went through training with LANO for young people interested in serving on boards. We learned not to get involved with a non-profit unless you are passionate about their mission. Otherwise, it will be a challenge to devote the necessary time needed to be a good board member and you either don’t show up or start to resent it.
Volunteers for Youth Justice is where I spend the most of my volunteer time; we run the CASA program in NWLA and have some amazing programs to prevent truancy and help children and families get the resources they need to stay together and be healthy families. I have been a board officer a few times over the last 10 years and started our largest annual fundraiser, Battle of the Gumbo Gladiators. Excited to be planning our 10th event and coming up with ideas to make it extra special.
Volunteers of America is another non-profit where I serve on the board. I first became involved with them in 2008 when I became a mentor through their Lighthouse program. My mentee is nearly 30 and I am still her mentor, but she is doing great! The Lighthouse and Communities in Schools program they operate in Caddo Parish has achieved phenomenal results in helping children to get the support they need to allow them to focus on doing well in school and moving on to the next phase of their lives prepared to succeed.
The theme you might see here is finding ways to help young people reach their potential; that is something I am very passionate about. Unfortunately, there are a lot of young people in this world who don’t have adults in their lives with the knowledge, time or willingness to teach them how to navigate this world in a way that will bring them fulfillment. This is a reason why I have become the workforce guru in my full-time professional path. If through the work I do I can help someone (young or adult-size) find a career they enjoy, where they feel like they are contributing and can earn a wage that supports them and their families, then that person will be a productive and happy member of our community, which benefits everyone in the community.
What advice do you have for young women or driven women whom are working towards their career goals?
If you tell someone you are going to do something, whether in a volunteer capacity, at work or in your personal life, deliver on it. Create a good product and follow through on commitments. If you are unable to deliver, communicate the challenges as soon as you can, keep people updated. Honor your word. This will help you establish a strong reputation for someone who is reliable.
Also, when you work in a team environment, get feedback from all those at the table. Give everyone a voice and chance to share their ideas, as they all have something to offer and provide different perspectives from yours and new ideas. And I know it sounds lame, but if you are in a position of leading meetings to accomplish work or volunteer projects, get good at creating a realistic agenda and stick to it. People appreciate it when you do not waste their time and agendas help with that.
Having things in your life that can help provide a counterbalance to your full-time job is also something I believe in. Having a passion, a hobby prevents work from becoming your life. It provides an opportunity to engage other parts of your brain, talents, interests. I just started a painting class and it is three hours of bliss, when I only think about the canvas in front of me. Gardening and cooking are other hobbies I enjoy.
During Covid I fell in love with podcasts. Which do you listen to?
My favorite of all time is Radio Lab. Anything they touch is amazing. I wish they had been my science teachers, I might have done better in those subjects. Snap Judgement, Fresh Air, and Broken Record are some other go to podcasts for me.
I recently began listening to Longer Tables, hosted by Jose Andres, the Spanish chef that started World Central Kitchen, an organization that deploys to devasted communities and helps set up kitchens to feed those in need. He is a hero of mine. I even sent a message with a recent donation that if they were ever looking for a COO, I am their girl.
Dolly Parton’s America takes the telling of Dolly’s story in directions you cannot imagine. I have listened to the series several times and it brings me joy every time. The Happiness Lab is another great option for those looking for ways to process all the insanity of the world and not let it take you down. I prefer to listen to things where I am either learning or being entertained.