Ewell Smith Resigns from Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board

by / Newsroom Ink on August 23, 2013
Ewell-Crisis

At the height of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, sits on barriers keeping oil off the beaches of Grand Island, LA. Although his community was devastated by the disaster, Smith’s leadership established a better working relationship between the oil and Louisiana commercial fishing industries after the crisis. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

by Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

In a letter to Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board chairman Chef John Folse, Ewell Smith has announced his resignation as the executive director of the state’s seafood organization after serving in that capacity for more than 13 years.

During his tenure with the organization, Smith has led market development, promotional activities and educational outreach for all of Louisiana’s seafood products.

In his letter to Chef Folse he said he has “reached a time in both my life and career where new challenges and opportunities must be explored. It is with a very heavy heart I write this letter to provide my resignation.”

For a majority of the past 13 years, the board served as a quasi-governmental institution under the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. During the past legislative session control of the board was moved under the Office of Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne. In a two-paragraph press release the Lt. Governor accepted Smith’s resignation.

Leading Louisiana Seafood to Prominence

Smith and his small team led Louisiana Seafood to international prominence.

He was instrumental in establishing marketing events giving Louisiana seafood worldwide exposure. Such events as the Great American Seafood Cook Off seen on PBS and Food Network, the Louisiana Seafood Cook Off, the Oyster Eating Challenge, the Louisiana Seafood Festival and signature po-boy builds at the Super Bowl to the White House have garnered billions of media impressions during his tenure.

In response to Smith’s resignation, Chef Folse said, “Your leadership and accomplishments over the years has produced unimaginable results. I for one have valued your leadership and friendship and have been often inspired by your tenacity and style. You have a unique quality to move people toward accomplishment, which is so evident by the results of your work.”

Ewell MC

Smith established the Great American Seafood Cookoff though a partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administation (NOAA). Photo: Louisiana Seafood News

Like the tide washing ashore on a Gulf beach, comments on Smith’s departure are flowing from Texas to Florida and beyond.

Houston-based Sysco Louisiana Foods chairman Jim Gossen said, “Ewell’s leadership will be greatly missed. He has been an effective and outspoken advocate for Gulf seafood, leading the charge for fisheries along the entire Gulf Coast.”

“There are few people who truly care, Ewell’s genuine smile and kind heart came through with every project he worked on for Louisiana, as well as the entire domestic seafood industry,” said Joanne McNeely, Seafood Marketing Coordinator for Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation. “He was a source of hope in a time of crisis. Like a rising tide that lifts all boats, Ewell was always a positive influence. His support and ideas were a key factor that influenced Gulf States to work together to help the entire Gulf Coast Seafood Community.”

“Ewell brought energy, drive, excitement and “out of the box” thinking that propelled the Louisiana Seafood Board into one of the top-notch marketing associations for seafood in the U.S.,” said Harlon Pearce, owner of Harlon’s LA Fish in New Orleans, and former board chair who worked with Smith during numerous hurricanes and the BP Oil Spill disaster.

Preparing the Board for Crisis after Crisis

Smith was responsible for bringing professionalism to the board, especially during times of crisis.

Long before the BP Oil Spill, the Board became crisis-communication experts leading the way to recovery following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. Smith led an industry group to be in DC following the devastation left by Katrina, trailblazing a path that secured more than 150 million dollars for the state’s fishing communities.

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Accepting Smith’s resignation, Chef Folse said, “Your leadership and accomplishments over the years has produced unimaginable results.” Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

When news first flashed acrossed the wires of a BP oilrig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, Smith knew his industry had a potential problem. When the Deepwater Horizon rig sank into the gulf waters, Smith realized he had a full-blown crisis on his hands.

During the darkest hours of the Louisiana seafood history, the Board became a shining light of hope. The boards crisis preparedness, that Smith had instituted, made it the “go to source” for national and global media during the BP Oil Spill disaster, it provided more than 3,000 media interviews that told the story of the plight of the Louisiana seafood community to the nation and the world.

“Ewell has helped guide the industry through five major hurricanes and the largest oil spill in our nation’s history. His passion and energy were invaluable to the domestic seafood industry during those trying times,” said Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, a longtime supporter of Louisiana seafood on the hill. “His leadership was instrumental in securing the funding we needed to protect and strengthen the Gulf brand and support ongoing recovery efforts along our coast. His innovative approach to addressing complex challenges was an asset to the entire industry. I thank him for his tireless service, and I wish him the best in all his future endeavors.”

According to Smith, “before Katrina, market development and product promotion was the board’s two main missions. Afterward, communicating about the viability of Louisiana’s commercial seafood community became paramount.”

Setting the “Gold Standard”

“Smith’s leadership has covered a span where five hurricanes and a devastating oil spill impacted our state and our seafood industry,” said Stan Harris, CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, who worked closely with Smith and the Board. “His tireless advocacy and promotion created new opportunities for our products while addressing the negative coverage on the safety of Louisiana seafood.”

“During his tenure, the Seafood Board became the ‘gold standard’ among their peer and related organizations for its creativity in seeking new partnerships and avenues for touting the many benefits of Louisiana Seafood.”

“During his tenure, the Seafood Board became the “gold standard” among their peer and related organizations for its creativity in seeking new partnerships and avenues for touting the many benefits of Louisiana Seafood,” said Stan Harris (right) with Ewell Smith and Bob Jones outside of Louisiana Congressman Rodney Alexander while “Walking the Hill” for seafood. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“During his tenure, the Seafood Board became the “gold standard” among their peer and related organizations for its creativity in seeking new partnerships and avenues for touting the many benefits of Louisiana Seafood,” said Stan Harris (right) with Ewell Smith and Bob Jones outside of Louisiana Congressman Rodney Alexander office while “Walking the Hill” for seafood. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Through his team’s grass roots efforts, the Seafood Board has nearly tripled the meager budget before BP dollars were made available. His leadership has positioned the Seafood Board as a leader in crisis communications, with industry leaders from China, Japan, Europe and others flocking to its Louisiana doorsteps.

Through the efforts of Smith and his staff, Louisiana Seafood has been rebuilt into one of the strongest premium brands in the world. From humble beginnings and through a series of truly unreal circumstances, the Board is now recognized internationally and seen as the “go to source” in the United States for Gulf seafood information.

“My friendship with you and others in the industry will always be cherished,” said Smith in his resignation letter. “I wish both the Board and you well going forward. I expect you will continue to maintain the high standards my team and I have worked hard to establish for Louisiana Seafood.”

“Ewell had the ability to educate both restaurants and consumers on the challenges of Louisiana fishing interests and how they could support this industry vital to our state’s economy,” said Harris. “His departure is a significant loss to all of us. In short, the Louisiana Seafood brand and identifying marks have value today as a result of Ewell’s leadership and vision.”

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About the Author

About the Author: Ed Lallo is the former editor of Gulf Seafood News and CEO of Newsroom Ink, an online brand journalism agency. .

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  1. Cheri Blanchard says:

    Ewell proved himself time after time as an advocate for the whole industry, boats to market. These were difficult waters to navigate but he was effective because he was wise enough to get insight from veterans of the industry, sincere in his desire to do the right thing always, & seemingly unswayed by political motives. I wish him the best ahead & expect that’s what he will find, given his integrity & quality of character.

    On another note, I’m terribly disappointed but not surprised at this outcome. I’m shocked at the power grab that preceded this. Every state senator & rep from my region participated along with Lt Governor Dardenne. I will work against their re-elections &/or abstain if they are the only (R) on the ticket next election. I don’t EVER want to hear about ethics from anyone who’s last names are Dove, Chabert or Dardenne again. Really??? Do the research & tell me what you find.

  2. Thank you for 13 years of fighting for and promoting the Gulf and all it has to offer

  3. Carolyn Mayo says:

    Ewell’s leadership in and passion for the seafood industry all along the Gulf Coast– not just in Louisiana– will be sorely missed. But here’s to the next adventure!

  4. Irvin Jackson says:

    Ewell, thanks for the great job you have done over the past 13 years.
    It is my opinion that you and Harlon have moved La. and the other Gulf States forward of where we once were. Thanks you for your support and hopefully, we will do something further before too long.

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