Former Jindal aide named new business group leader

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal's former chief of staff, Stephen Waguespack, was picked Friday to lead a powerful lobbying group, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

Waguespack will start work as president on Sept. 16 after winning the support of LABI's board of directors. He'll succeed Dan Juneau, who has led the organization since 1989 and is retiring.

In a statement, Jay Lapeyre, chairman of LABI's search committee, called Waguespack "exceptionally talented and well qualified to lead" the organization.

"The process to select our new president of LABI was objective and comprehensive, presenting a broad range of outstanding talent for consideration." LABI search committee member John Finan Jr. said in the statement. "Stephen Waguespack is an innovative and thoughtful leader who exceeded our search committee's expectations."

Waguespack, a Baton Rouge lawyer, has been working since last year for the Jones Walker law firm, dealing with lobbying and regulatory issues. He left the governor's office in October 2012 after five years with the Jindal administration.

Over the years, he has worked as Jindal's chief of staff, executive counsel and deputy chief of staff. He also worked on the governor's 2007 campaign.

Waguespack currently serves as a Jindal appointee to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, but he said Friday that he is resigning from the board. LABI often recommends education policy positions to BESE.

LABI is the statewide chamber of commerce and has wielded significant sway in the Louisiana Legislature.

While often supportive of Jindal's agenda, the business organization helped kill the Republican governor's recent proposal to rewrite the state's tax structure, which sought to do away with state income taxes in favor of higher and more sales taxes.

Waguespack dismissed suggestions that his ties to Jindal could shift LABI to a closer allegiance with the governor's office or influence the business organization's agenda at the Louisiana Capitol.

He called any claims that he would take his guidance from the governor rather than LABI's members "absolutely ridiculous."

"I have lots of friends in the Capitol. From time to time, they're going to probably present ideas that are at odds with LABI. I'm going to have to stand strong and support LABI's position. I understand that," he said. "I would never take a job where I couldn't be 100 percent loyal to my employer."

Jindal's spokeswoman Shannon Bates said the governor and his staff didn't ask LABI board members to support Waguespack's appointment.

"But Stephen is a great guy, and he will do a great job for the folks at LABI," she said in an email.

Waguespack said he was approached about the job by the search firm that was hired to seek candidates for the organization.

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