Happy Birthday, Governor!
09. 15. 2017
As Gov. John Bel Edwards prepares to celebrate his 51st birthday Saturday, The Picard Group joins his friends, family, supporters and other Louisianans to wish him a year of health, happiness and wisdom.
Tyron Picard, principal of TPG, practiced law with Edwards’ father from 1990 through 1995.
“Gov. Edwards was in the Army at the time. I see in him a lot of the same qualities that I saw in his father,” Picard said. “Actually, I believe he and I have a lot in common. We both grew up in rural areas with fathers who were elected officials. Tangipahoa and Vermilion parishes both continue to struggle with poverty — that struggle made a deep impression on him, as it did me. He has compassion about the plight of people in that struggle.”
Picard says he sees Edwards’ approach to improving Louisiana is much like the former soldier would approach a strategic military operation — an approach that makes sense since Edwards received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from West Point, the United States Military Academy in 1988. While at West Point, he was on the Dean’s List and served as vice chairman of the panel that enforced the West Point honor code. Edwards’ moral compass guides a lot of his decisions, according to Picard. “He’s a deeply spiritual person. I’m not sure a lot of people appreciate that,” Picard said.
Earlier this year, Picard along with TPG’s Mike Michot traveled to the Vatican with Edwards and his wife, Donna, and other Louisiana officials, where they met Pope Francis. “The trip was regarding the fight against human trafficking effort in Louisiana. The human trafficking issue is very near and dear to his heart,” Picard said. “The time to meet with the Holy Father and discuss human trafficking efforts in Louisiana was incredible. I’ve known six governors and countless senators and congressman. I’ve met four presidents. All of that combined doesn’t add up to the few minutes we spent with Pope Francis and the sense of perspective it offered.”
Picard has grown to appreciate the role that Louisiana’s First Lady plays in the life of her husband, family and the state. “Donna’s role is a very powerful one. She is an underappreciated force in a lot of areas in terms of her role in a number of causes,” Picard said. “She’s undertaken the complete restoration and preservation of the Governor’s Mansion and its grounds and a number of other causes, including education and human trafficking.” Picard has observed that Mrs. Edwards plays a very quiet but powerful role in her husband’s life. “They’ve been dating since they were in high school. As I learned on the trip, they can literally finish each other’s sentences,” Picard said. “She’s a very calming influence on him.”
Picard said that while they enjoyed the trip to the Vatican and many other times visiting with Edwards, they also haven’t agreed on some topics. “I’ve had more disagreements and conversational debates with him than any other governor,” Picard said. “Even so, I appreciate his willingness to hear all sides before he makes a decision and that he has the ability to never have any lingering grudge if we end up not agreeing.”
Picard says Edwards’ work ethic has been amazing to watch. “He’s literally working six or seven days a week, 18 hours a day. When you factor in the past year and a half with the tragedy of the Baton Rouge shootings, the August floods, the special sessions, the regular sessions, the hurricane threats, it’s been one crisis after another. I guess it goes back to his military training — he always seems to have a level head in the seat of crisis.”
Picard says he’s impressed with Edwards’ level of retention of information. “For example, at his invitation, we were having dinner at the Governor’s Mansion with a client, the CEO of a global company. The Governor not only absorbed everything the CEO told him about the global operations, but he was very inquisitive about how the company was doing and what its growth future was in the state. I was amazed at how much he knew about the company’s operation in Louisiana.”
Overall, Picard congratulates Edwards for his leadership in passing the criminal justice reform in a bipartisan fashion during a bitter fight. “I believe that work will pay long term dividends for the state,” Picard said.
Picard believes Edwards, who was elected in the hard-fought run to lead the state, does a good job of communicating to people who he is and what his life is about. While Picard doesn’t rule out further political possibilities for Edwards, he said he’s never heard the Governor express those ambitions. “I truly believe he sees God’s will for him and whatever fate or providence brings, he’ll be open to it,” Picard said.