Angelique Barker – Bayou Region Influencers 2023February 2, 2023
Dr. Michael Garcia – Bayou Region Influencers 2023February 2, 2023
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?
While I was at Nicholls, I was a part-time sales person at Saadi’s Haberdashery in downtown Houma. Upon graduation from Nicholls, I did my active duty with the Army Reserve. When I returned, I went back to Saadi’s while trying to find a job in agriculture. While I was there, I met Mr. Joe Waitz Sr. and several other local attorneys who said I should try law school. After applying to law school, with the assistance of the late Senator Harvey Peltier and his father Mr. Harvey Peltier Sr., I was admitted to Loyola Law School in 1969. While in law school I would return to Houma on weekends and holidays and work at Saadi’s to pay for my clothing. In my senior year of law school, I was a law clerk for a law firm in New Orleans and for Mr. Waitz in Houma. Upon gradating from law school, I had an offer from both the New Orleans firm and Mr. Waitz. I wanted to return to Houma, so I accepted Mr. Waitz’s offer and started to work with him in 1972. Eventually, continuing to work with Mr. Waitz over the years, the firm ultimately became Waitz and Downer. Today, I continue to practice with Mr. Waitz’s children: Joe Waitz Jr., and Mary Waitz Riviere. The next generation includes Joe Jr.’s son, Joseph Waitz III. As the old saying goes, the rest is history. 2022 marked my 50th year as a practicing attorney.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced over the years and how did you meet it?
My greatest challenge has been balancing all of my professional roles. Simultaneously beginning the practice of law and continuing in the Army Reserve, I ultimately transferred to the Louisiana National Guard, retiring from that role as the Assistant Adjutant General and Joint Force Commander as a Major General in 2010. Also, simultaneously, with the practice of law and military service, I was elected in 1975 to the Louisiana House of Representatives from Terrebonne Parish and served in that capacity for 28 years, leaving the House in 2004. While in the legislature, I served as both Speaker Pro Tempore and Speaker of the House. Upon leaving the House, I simultaneously served as Louisiana’s first Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and on-duty with the Louisiana National Guard overseeing training of our troops who were being deployed. I was then redirected to Hurricane Katrina duties, ultimately concluding that service with the main focus on overseeing the rebuilding of historic Jackson Barracks, the Headquarters of the Louisiana National Guard and its 100+ structures. Upon release from National Guard duty and retirement, I returned to full time practice with Waitz & Downer.
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?
There are two things I regularly share with my team. Do the right thing, even when no one is looking! Second, I stress verbal communication 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.
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 served with in the military or legislature or whom I represented over the years. I love the community and the culture.
Who are your greatest influencers?
My family, especially my wife and children.
How are you going to impact the Bayou Region in 2023?
I throughly enjoy the practice of law because I enjoy helping people and serving. I plan to continue practicing law and to lead by example.