SOC2023 post-event resources are live!

Plenary Speakers


At SOC2023, our opening plenary session on Day 1 included lunch and welcoming remarks from Kim Reyher, the executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, and Chip Kline, director of coastal activities for the state of Louisiana. Gov. John Bel Edwards gave the welcome plenary address.

Lunchtime on Day 2 of State of the Coast 2023 featured CRCL’s Coastal Stewardship Awards presentations and remarks from Mike Tidwell, author of “Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast.”

Lunch on Day 3 of the conference featured student prizes presented by Sea Grant and plenary remarks from Mitch Landrieu, the White House senior adviser responsible for coordinating implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Rep. Garret Graves.

Gov. John Bel Edwards

Gov. John Bel Edwards was born seventh out of eight children to Sheriff Frank Jr. and Dora Jean Edwards. He grew up in Amite, a rural town in Tangipahoa Parish. The governor graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1988. He served on active duty for eight years, earning Airborne, Ranger and Jumpmaster status. 

Gov. Edwards retired from the Army with the rank of captain. He moved back home and earned a law degree from LSU before opening a civil law practice. In 2008, he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives, where he served for eight years.

On January 11, 2016, Edwards was sworn in as the 56th governor of Louisiana. On January 13, 2020, Edwards was sworn in for his second term. 

He and First Lady Donna Edwards have three children: Samantha Bel, Sarah Ellen and John Miller.

Gov. Edwards has taken numerous steps during his administration to prioritize addressing climate change and clean energy alongside Louisiana’s long history of traditional energy. In 2020, the governor created the Climate Initiatives Task force, the state’s first effort to develop economy-wide policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The same year, the state formally began the process to develop offshore wind leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

In 2017, the Louisiana Legislature unanimously passed the Louisiana Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, and under his administration, the state has invested $15.4 billion in coastal protection and restoration construction projects benefitting nearly 32,000 acres of wetlands and 359 miles of levees. The state is currently in engineering and design for another 52 projects that when completed, will represent an additional total investment of nearly $8 billion and benefit just under 300,000 acres of wetlands.

Mike Tidwell

Author Mike Tidwell predicted in vivid detail the Hurricane Katrina disaster in his award-winning 2003 book “Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast(Pantheon/Vintage). Tidwell considers south Louisiana his second home after “boat hitchhiking” through the bayous, working as a deck hand on shrimp boats and crab boats and falling in love with the wetlands and Cajun culture. Tidwell is the author of five other books, including “The Ravaging Tide,” “In the Mountains of Heaven” and “The Ponds of Kalambayi.” A former National Endowment for the Arts fellow, Tidwell has published his work in Audubon, National Geographic Traveler, Reader’s Digest, Washingtonian and many other publications. His frequent articles for The Washington Post have earned him four Lowell Thomas Awards, the highest prize in American travel journalism. A passionate conservationist, he is founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. He lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife and their cat, Macy Gray.

Mitch Landrieu

Landrieu served as a state legislator as well as Louisiana’s lieutenant governor before serving two terms as mayor of New Orleans. He is charged with overseeing implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure law that the White House touts as providing the “biggest investments in roads, bridges, and rail in generations; investments in ports and airports, the biggest investment in mass transit in American history, investments that stop our children from drinking poisoned water, unprecedented clean energy and climate resilience investments, and investments that connect every American to high speed Internet.”

Congressman Garret Graves

Graves is proud to represent nearly 800,000 people across south Louisiana. The district includes the Baton Rouge capitol region, both sides of the mighty Mississippi through the river region down to New Orleans airport, then southwest through the bayou communities of Thibodaux, Houma and ending across the
Atchafalaya Basin in the Morgan City area.

Graves brings experience in infrastructure, resilience, disaster response, conservation, environmental and energy issues to the U.S. House of Representatives – and has intimate knowledge of the unique terrain of South Louisiana, where he was born and

Graves chairs the Aviation Subcommittee on Transportation and serves on the Natural Resources Committee. During his tenure, he has been recognized for his work breaking decades-old logjams, finding new solutions to old problems, and using new
technology to improve the efficiency and customer service of the federal government. Garret has been ranked one of the most effective U.S. House members and has had several bipartisan bills signed into law by three different presidents.

With his no-nonsense style, Garret has a proven record of delivering positive results for Louisiana and the nation.

He is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he resides with his wife Carissa and their three children

Plenaries also included remarks from :



Chip Kline

the Chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Board and the Director of Coastal Activities for the State of Louisiana