Are you a community leader in Louisiana looking to deepen your understanding of free-market policy solutions, expand your network, or build up important skills? If so, Pelican Institute’s Leadership Academy is for you, and we will begin accepting applications for the 2024 class in October.

In the weeks leading up to the opening of the application window, we’ll highlight the stories of several alumni of the program. First up, meet Lieutenant Commander Kirk Williamson of New Orleans, an alumnus of the 2022 class:

Tell us a little about your background and bio so our readers can get to know you.

My name is Kirk Williamson.  I am a girl-dad, Developer, Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy Reserves, and a Ph.D. candidate. I am blessed of how gracious the Lord has been with my life, and I consider myself to be incredibly lucky to pursue all of my interests and passions. I was born in Winnsboro, LA, raised in Monroe, and later graduated from Cedar Creek Highschool in Ruston. After high school, I studied at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where I obtained a B.A. in International Affairs.

Following college, I joined the Navy to serve in Naval Intelligence when America was engaged in two wars. I deployed in support of those conflicts in 2009 while simultaneously completing my Master’s Degree in Diplomacy. After finishing my active-duty service, I moved home to Louisiana, located to New Orleans, transitioned to the Navy Reserves, opened a small residential development company following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and have grown that company to a scale I never could have imagined.

My greatest blessing came in 2018 when God gave me my daughter, Sofia, who is so much like me that I kick myself in wonderment. I am currently finishing my Doctoral degree in International Relations with my dissertation focusing on Astropolitics—the politics of space. I am a world record holder (World’s Longest Handshake), board member of the Pelican Institute PAC, an avid Saints/Tigers fan, and a daily participant at JazzFest every year. In sum, I’m just a small-town boy living his big-city dreams!

Why do you think it’s so important to get involved in trying to chart a new course for Louisiana?

My family located to North Louisiana just before the Louisiana Purchase. To me, Louisiana isn’t just home—it’s my history. To witness the decay that has occurred in my life is unacceptable. I can’t in good conscious look at what I have been blessed to receive without trying to at least give back. I’m not a doctor and can’t help Louisiana stay healthy. I’m not an engineer who can build our refineries, rigs and other engines of importance. I’m not as important as farmers or teachers, but I am business owner. And, in that capacity, I know what it means to create jobs and the burden this state places on us trying to do so. I can’t sit back and watch the heavy hand of the government crush opportunities for the hard-working men and women of this state.  Louisiana needs to correct its ship of state, and it needs citizens to help chart that new course. Count me in!

 What is your vision for your community and for Louisiana?

I ran for State Representative in 2019 and knocked on 12,000 doors alone (48,000 with volunteers). At each door, I lobbied voters for a constitutional convention. It was needed then as it is needed today. So much of what we do in this state links back to a more corrupt and, quite frankly, socialist time of Huey Long and Edwin Edwards whose influence is still felt in our current state contract. My belief is that if we aren’t talking convention, then we are just putting a band-aid on the forehead of a patient who is flat lining. My vision is a new document that lessens the size of government, reduces its revenues/expenditures, and refocuses its attention on attracting business and enterprise to this state. It’s Louisiana’s moonshot, and we are about to lose this race if we don’t start now.

How will you solve some of the biggest challenges facing our state?

See above 🙂

What was your favorite aspect of your Pelican Leadership Academy experience?

This may be the hardest question yet because my experience was incredibly fulfilling.  But, I think my favorite aspect was just spending time with my cohorts. Each and every conversation I had with them about: where they were from, their background, the hopes and their dreams for this state kept me inspired from day one. Louisiana has incredible people, and my PLA class represented the best and brightest of them!

What is your advice for someone who is thinking about getting more involved, and why would applying to the Pelican Leadership Academy be a good idea?

If someone is considering getting involved, my advice is simple: don’t wait, and jump in the deep end! PLA provides an incredible diving board for that advice in that PLA links key stakeholders, across the state, in multiple industries, with various focus issues in one cohesive class.

If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?

Sloppy Joes and tater tots.