The Advocate assembles BR advisory board

Six Baton Rouge-area and one Lafayette community leaders will sit on a board to advise The Advocate’s owners and management on ways to improve the newspaper and stay tied in to the local community.

The group includes Brenda Birkett, Janet Boles, Beau Box, Mike Polito, Jennifer Eplett Reilly, Joseph Savoie and the Rev. Lee Wesley.

The Advocate was sold April 30 to New Orleans businessman John Georges and his wife, Dathel. Georges has said showing his commitment to Baton Rouge is one of his immediate challenges. The panel is one of the ways of meeting this task, he said.

The board will advise the new owners as well as Advocate General Manager Dan Shea and Editor Peter Kovacs.

“We plan to succeed by relentlessly listening to our readers, and this group will help us do that,” Kovacs said.

Kovacs said the newspaper also has set up an advisory board for its New Orleans edition.

Birkett is president of the Baton Rouge chapter of The Links Inc., an international women’s service organization. She serves on the boards of other civic organizations, including the ExxonMobil YMCA, AMIkids-Baton Rouge and the Foundation for Louisiana. She retired as dean of the College of Business at McNeese State University in 2006.

Before that, she held academic and administrative positions at Southern University. Birkett, who lives in Baker, earned a doctorate in accounting from LSU, an MBA from Atlanta University and a bachelor’s in accounting from Southern.

Boles is an attorney and owner of the Boles Law Firm in Baton Rouge, which specializes in regulatory, public utility, gaming, pilotage and corporate law. She served on the LSU Law Center Board of Trustees, the Loyola University Board of Trustees and is a former board president of the Baton Rouge Community College Foundation. Boles graduated from the LSU Law Center and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from LSU.

Box is the president and chief executive officer of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate, one of the highest-grossing commercial real estate firms in Louisiana. He launched the Baton Rouge company in 2005. Over the years, the firm has grown to include offices in New Orleans and Lafayette. Box has worked in Baton Rouge commercial real estate for 20 years.

He is a past president of the Southeast Regional chapter of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors.

Polito is the president and founder of MAPP Construction, the third-largest commercial general contractor in the state. A native of Baton Rouge, Polito earned a bachelor’s in construction from LSU. He has served as chairman of a number of local organizations, including the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, the Capital Area United Way annual campaign and the Capital Area United Way strategic planning committee. Polito also serves on the Woman’s Hospital board of directors.

Eplett Reilly serves as founding chair of New Schools for Baton Rouge, an education reform initiative designed to create educational opportunities for 12,000 students in the next five years in the core of the capital city. She is co-founder of City Year Inc. and served on Teach for America’s founding national and Louisiana boards. She has served as a chair of the Shaw Center for the Arts, the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation and the Louisiana Educational Television Authority. Reilly earned a bachelor’s in political science from Wellesley College and an MBA from Harvard University.

Savoie has been president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette since July 2008. Before that, he spent 11 years as Louisiana’s commissioner of higher education. Savoie earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and earned a doctor of education in educational leadership and administration from Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City. Prior to becoming commissioner of higher education,

Savoie spent 18 years as an administrator at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Wesley is a founding member of Together Baton Rouge, a parishwide network of more than 100 faith and civic groups that crosses racial and denominational lines to solve some of the social problems that face the city.

He is also the pastor and founder of Community Bible Baptist Church, which has more than 500 members.