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HUNT DOWNER – ATTORNEY
Waitz and Downer
• State Representative (1976-2004), Speaker Pro Tempore (1988- 1992), Speaker of the House of Representatives (1996-2000)
• Louisiana Political Hall of Fame
• Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame
• Center for Digital Government, Government Technology Award
• Governing Magazine Public Official of the Year
• Louisiana State University Cadets of the Ole War Skule, Hall of Honor
• Foundation for Historical Louisiana Preservation Award
• Louisiana Architectural Foundation, Patron of Architecture Award
• Over 35 federal and state military awards
• Louisiana Spirit of Main Street Award
• Louisiana’s first Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs
• Starting as a private and retiring as a Major General in the US Army
• Board Member for Nicholls Foundation
• Advisor to the Regional Military Museum
• Past Board Member of the National WWII Museum in New Orleans
• LSU Cadets of the Ole War Skule
What led you to the role you currently hold in your company? Did you see yourself in this position when you started out in the workforce?
While attending Nicholls, I worked part-time to pay college tuition and expenses. I was a sales clerk at Saadi’s Haberdashery, drove a delivery truck for Caro produce, worked for an offshore catering company, was an oilfield rough neck and roustabout. At that time I never realized that those experiences and individuals whom I met would be “influencers” who would shape my work on the “Road of Life”! At Saadi’s, I met and interacted with business owners, attorneys, judges, political office holders and every day, hard-working citizens. While at Saadi’s, one of the attorneys I met, and who encouraged me to go to law school, was Mr. Joe Waitz Sr. I applied to law school and with the assistance of State Senator Harvey Peltier Jr. and his father, Harvey Peltier Sr. who had also been a State Senator, I was admitted to Loyola Law School. While in law school I continued part-time employment at Saadi’s on weekends and during the summers, worked also as a Senate aid, roustabout and roughneck for Texaco. My senior year in law school I was a law clerk for a law firm in New Orleans and for Mr. Waitz in Houma. Mr. Waitz offered me a job upon graduation in 1972. Over the years, the firm became Waitz & Downer. Today I continue to practice law with Joe Waitz Jr., Mary Waitz Riviere, Joseph Waitz III, Ellen Doskey and Gary Williams Jr.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced over the years and how did you meet it?
The greatest challenge has been a balancing of all of my professional roles as an Attorney, Legislator and Military Officer, all while simultaneously being a husband and father. I served 28 years in the House of Representatives, serving as both Speaker Pro-Tempore and Speaker; four years as Secretary of the LA Department of Veterans Affairs; 35 years Military Service, retiring as a Major General, USA having served as Assistant Adjutant General, LANG, Joint Forces Commander, serving on active duty for the 1st Gulf War and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. All this while raising a family and practicing law was not only challenging, but rewarding, as I had the support of my family.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
In college, I wanted to be an Air Force pilot but the Air Force said I had a depth perception issue and they wanted to make me a navigator. So I joined the Army.
What was your first job and what lesson did you learn from this job?
My first jobs were cutting grass and selling Christmas cards. From cutting grass I learned hard work and attention to detail. In selling Christmas cards, I learned how to treat and talk to people.
What piece of advice do you share with your team regularly?
Verbal communication is key in today’s electronic age. I encourage that over electronics, such as an email. Meet and talk with the person, or pick up the phone and call them.
What was your most fulfilling career moment?
My next one. I enjoy law because I get an opportunity to help people and I am thankful for my broad and vast experiences and exposures to a vast array of legal issues, people and places. All of which in one way or another add to my ability, and our firm’s ability to respond.
Who are your greatest influencers?
My family, especially my wife and children.
What is the best part of working here in the Bayou Region?
I am working with folks I grew up with whose parents, grandparents, I knew, worked with and maybe for, served with in the military or legislature, and whom I represented over the years. I love the community and the culture.
How are you going to impact the Bayou Region in 2024?
I throughly enjoy the practice of law because I enjoy helping people and serving. I plan to continue practicing law and to lead by