Walt Leger III: A Trailblazer in Public Service

Navigating the Complex Landscape of Public Service with Integrity and Impact!

In the complex and ever-evolving landscape of public service, few individuals possess the diverse and extensive background that Walt Leger III brings to the table. As the President and CEO of New Orleans & Company, he stands as a true visionary, known for his pragmatic problem-solving and exceptional ability to build coalitions. Walt’s journey through various fields, from civil litigation and criminal prosecution to state legislation and nonprofit community involvement, has shaped him into a dynamic and influential leader.

Walt’s impressive career trajectory reflects his unwavering commitment to public service and his community. He began his professional journey as a civil litigator and criminal prosecutor, where he honed his skills in the legal arena. However, his true passion for public service was ignited when he entered the realm of state legislation.

As a State Legislator, Walt Leger III demonstrated a keen understanding of legislative affairs and strategic planning. His ability to bridge the gap between diverse interests and stakeholders earned him a reputation as a leader who could navigate the complex landscape of government and policy with grace and effectiveness. He cultivated strong relationships across the business community and all levels of government, from local to federal.

Walt’s areas of expertise are as diverse as his career path. They encompass critical sectors such as transportation, tourism, economic development, tax policy, healthcare, education, public safety, and the legal system. This comprehensive understanding of various fields has equipped him with the tools needed to drive positive change and progress within his community.

Behind Walt Leger III’s remarkable career is a foundation rooted in strong family values. Raised in St. Bernard Parish, just outside New Orleans, he was instilled with a deep sense of civic duty by his parents, Walter and Cathy. His academic excellence, which began at Jesuit High School in New Orleans and continued at Louisiana State University, was complemented by a burning desire to serve his community.

Walt’s passion for public service was evident even from an early age when he volunteered for a mock debate in the 1st grade, assuming the role of Presidential candidate Walter Mondale—a role that led to his first taste of defeat. But it was through these experiences that he developed the resilience and determination that would later define his career.

Today, Walt Leger III stands as a testament to the power of commitment, integrity, and leadership in the realm of public service. His journey is a source of inspiration for aspiring leaders and a reminder that true leadership is about service, community, and making a positive impact on the world.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

A Dynamic Leader Shaping New Orleans’ Future

Walt Leger III’s journey as a dynamic leader in Louisiana reflects his deep commitment to public service and his dedication to making a positive impact on his community. From his early education to his time as a prosecutor, legislator, and now as the President and CEO of New Orleans & Company, Walt’s career path has been marked by an unwavering commitment to leadership and service.

Walt’s educational journey took him from New Orleans to Dartmouth College, where he earned his undergraduate degree. Afterward, he returned to his hometown to attend Tulane Law School, where he demonstrated leadership skills as the business editor of the Tulane Maritime Law Journal and the Editor-in-Chief of the Tulane Environmental Law Newsletter. These early experiences laid the foundation for his future leadership roles.

Following law school, Walt worked as an assistant district attorney in New Orleans, focusing on prosecuting violent offenders and narcotics traffickers. It was during this time that Hurricane Katrina struck, a catastrophic event that profoundly impacted the city and its residents. The devastation of the hurricane further solidified Walt’s commitment to public service and his determination to make a difference in his community.

In 2007, Walt was elected to the Louisiana Legislature, beginning a successful and uncontested political career that spanned multiple terms. His colleagues recognized his leadership abilities by unanimously selecting him to serve as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives, making him the youngest person to hold this position at the time. Throughout his legislative career, Walt focused on issues such as budget reform, early childhood education, criminal justice reform, coastal preservation, economic development, and infrastructure.

Walt’s pragmatic approach to policymaking, coupled with data-driven decision-making, led to several significant legislative accomplishments. These included the establishment of the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund, the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund, and the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Program. His ability to build partnerships and collaborate across party lines was instrumental in achieving these milestones.

After leaving the legislature in 2020 due to term limits, Walt joined New Orleans & Company, the city’s official destination sales and marketing organization, as Executive Vice President and General Counsel. In this role, he played a crucial role in navigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly impacted the travel and hospitality industry.

Walt’s leadership abilities and extensive experience in both public service and the hospitality industry positioned him as a top contender to succeed Stephen Perry as President and CEO of New Orleans & Company. On January 1, 2023, he assumed this role, becoming not only the youngest ever to hold it but also one of the few destination marketing organization leaders born and raised in the community they serve.

Walt’s devotion to his family, including his wife Danielle and their two young daughters, serves as a motivating force behind his commitment to improving the quality of life in Louisiana. His passion for making Louisiana a safer, smarter, and more sustainable place to live reflects his dedication to creating a brighter future for his community.

Walt Leger III’s leadership journey embodies the qualities of vision, collaboration, and a deep sense of purpose. His dynamic leadership continues to shape the future of New Orleans, making it a world-class destination and a thriving community.

Winning Philosophy

Walt Leger III’s leadership philosophy is rooted in a strong sense of teamwork and the importance of leading by example. He values the qualities of humility, persistence, and determination as essential drivers of success. Let’s delve deeper into these key traits that have been instrumental in shaping his leadership style:

  • Humility: Walt understands the significance of humility in leadership. It involves recognizing one’s limitations, being open to feedback, and acknowledging that no one person has all the answers. Humble leaders create an environment where team members feel valued and heard. They are approachable, willing to learn from others, and quick to give credit to their team for achievements. This trait fosters trust and collaboration among team members, leading to a more cohesive and productive working environment.


  • Persistence: Persistence is the unwavering commitment to achieving goals despite obstacles and setbacks. It’s about not giving up, even when faced with challenges that may seem insurmountable. Walt’s belief in the power of persistence means that he maintains his focus on long-term objectives and perseveres through adversity. This tenacity is crucial in leadership, as it inspires others to push through difficulties and stay motivated in pursuit of shared goals.


  • Determination: Determination complements persistence by emphasizing the willingness to tackle obstacles head-on and find solutions. Determined leaders are not easily discouraged by setbacks; instead, they view challenges as opportunities for growth. They inspire their teams to adopt a problem-solving mindset and approach difficulties with a can-do attitude. Determination is a key driver of innovation and resilience within an organization.

Walt’s approach to leadership centers on these traits, which are not limited to innate abilities but can be cultivated and developed over time. By embodying humility, persistence, and determination, leaders can set a positive example for their teams and drive collective success. These qualities not only contribute to personal and professional growth but also help create a culture of continuous improvement and achievement.

Elevating the City’s Status 

Walt Leger III holds a profound belief in New Orleans’ unique ability to host a wide range of major events, from trade shows and conventions to global conferences and sporting extravaganzas like the Super Bowl. He recognizes that executing complex events is a hallmark of the city’s residents, who excel in creating unforgettable memories for visitors. While New Orleans boasts unparalleled authenticity and cultural richness, it is the people of the city who truly elevate it into a world-class destination for both business and leisure travelers.

To further enhance New Orleans’ reputation and appeal, Walt places a strong emphasis on making the city an even better place to live and work. This commitment aligns with his vision of reinforcing core assets, such as the vibrant neighborhoods that define the city’s character. Preserving the unique landscape, architecture, and culture is vital, as these elements set New Orleans apart in a competitive environment. These distinctive features are not only a source of pride for residents but also integral to what makes the city so special.

Walt understands the importance of supporting community assets like the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which is undergoing $557 million worth of upgrades. Additionally, the development of the 39-acre mixed-use River District along the riverfront adjacent to the Convention Center represents a significant investment in the city’s future.

The recent $450 million renovation of the Caesars Superdome is another critical milestone that builds on previous improvements, securing its status as an iconic venue. Walt emphasizes the necessity of staying competitive by modernizing and updating hotel offerings, recognizing that other cities are vying for the same tourism market. He firmly believes that New Orleans must remain committed to evolving its infrastructure to support and preserve its thriving visitor economy.

Under Walt’s leadership, New Orleans is poised to continue its legacy as a premier destination, captivating visitors with its unique charm, culture, and warmth while ensuring that the city remains a vibrant and attractive place to live and work.

Innovative Marketing and Ambitious Plans

In 2022, New Orleans & Company achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first destination marketing organization to seamlessly integrate virtual reality (VR) technology into its Plus One advertising campaign. This innovative campaign invites viewers to partake in the world’s most exceptional dinner party, elevating the user experience through VR technology. However, for New Orleans & Company, this marks just the initial step in their journey of embracing cutting-edge technologies to craft unique and immersive experiences for enthusiasts of the city, connecting with audiences on both a domestic and global scale. This marketing initiative exemplifies the innate creativity of New Orleans’ residents, celebrating the fusion of creativity and innovation that defines the city.

Looking ahead, New Orleans & Company has ambitious plans to develop novel programs aimed at driving visitation, building upon the resounding success of the NOLAxNOLA event. Now in its third year, this event showcases the city’s vibrant music scene and venues, captivating audiences and fostering a deeper appreciation for New Orleans’ cultural richness.

Meetings and conventions remain pivotal components of New Orleans’ tourism landscape. Walt emphasizes their commitment to integrating the “Built to Host” messaging into all aspects of their efforts to attract meetings and conventions. Launched in 2021, “Built to Host” represents a comprehensive, city-wide approach to marketing and servicing, ensuring that every sales professional in the city, not just those at New Orleans & Company and the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, conveys a consistent and compelling message to the world. This campaign has already demonstrated its resonance, and the organization is poised to elevate it to new heights in 2023.

Perspective on Overcoming Obstacles

Life is inherently uncertain, filled with unexpected twists and turns that can disrupt even the best-laid plans. Obstacles, like uninvited guests, have a knack for showing up when least expected. Yet, in the face of life’s uncertainties, Walt holds a steadfast belief that individuals have a choice: they can either fixate on the obstacle or chart a new course forward, even if it means forging an entirely uncharted path.

Adversity and challenges, he contends, are not adversaries to be avoided but rather integral aspects of the human experience. Without them, growth would be stunted, and the sweetness of success would lose its flavor. While grappling with failure and setbacks can be emotionally taxing, they offer invaluable opportunities for learning and self-improvement.

For Walt, failure isn’t a dead-end; it’s a stepping stone on the path to success. Each obstacle that surfaces becomes a canvas upon which resilience and determination are painted. In the face of challenges, his unwavering conviction in finding a way forward serves as a powerful motivator, propelling him toward his goals and a fulfilling life.

Harmonizing Work and Family Life

Maintaining a sense of balance in life is an ever-present challenge, one that Walt has discovered can be partially addressed by incorporating his family into his professional world. By openly discussing his work—its challenges, triumphs, and the broader mission of his organization—with his wife and children, he seeks to bridge the gap between his personal and professional spheres. Through these conversations, he hopes to impart a valuable lesson to his children: the importance of finding joy and fulfillment in one’s labor.

Walt’s role at New Orleans & Company holds a profound purpose—he and his team serve as stewards of their beloved city, working diligently to strengthen the community they call home. This fundamental aspect of their work serves as a wellspring of motivation, infusing every member with a deep sense of responsibility and an unwavering commitment to excellence. Despite the weighty responsibilities and the pressure they entail, the prospect of contributing their best efforts each day to uplift their community serves as a powerful motivator.

The team’s success ripples outward, benefiting not only the community at large but also the member businesses within it. This symbiotic relationship fosters a sense of shared purpose and a collective drive to achieve excellence, making every day a rewarding endeavor for all involved.

Advocacy, Partnership, and Unity

Leveraging his extensive legal background and over a decade of legislative experience, Walt is determined to continue his advocacy for New Orleans by forging partnerships, dismantling barriers, and fostering unity. In an era where political disagreements often manifest as boycotts and travel bans, the convergence of politics and business has become more crucial than ever.

Walt’s deep conviction lies in the idea that by successfully promoting and marketing New Orleans as a welcoming destination for conferences, leisure travel, and business, the city can attract more people, stimulate economic growth, and create opportunities for all residents and workers. He instills in his team the imperative of optimism, underscoring their responsibility to discover innovative ways to bring people together in this vibrant city, inspiring them to achieve remarkable feats.

Every day, Walt draws inspiration from Mark Twain’s timeless words: “Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness.” His ultimate goal is to spotlight the boundless creativity and innovation that emanate from New Orleans’ streets, encouraging individuals from all corners of the globe to embrace inclusivity, compassion, and open-mindedness. Through effective communication and collaborative efforts, Walt firmly believes that people can accomplish remarkable feats, enhancing human interaction and enriching the lives of everyone in the community, including the city’s cherished visitors.