Profession: President and CEO, Center for Planning Excellence
Hometown: Baton Rouge
Family: Married to husband, Devin Broome, with two sons: Isaac (7) and Emerson (5)
Years with company: 12
More and more, the world has come to understand that the way in which human beings interact with their physical environment impacts everything from public safety to traffic to housing prices. Making that relationship function better through cutting edge strategies, planning and research is what drives Camille Manning-Broome, president and CEO of the Center for Planning Excellence in Baton Rouge.
“I have a deep, intrinsic desire and feeling of purpose about helping the environment and the community,” says Manning-Broome. “I’m lucky. I have a duty and a mission—not a job—and I never feel as though I’m going to work.”
CPEX is a nonprofit planning organization launched after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit Louisiana in 2005, revealing both weaknesses in the ways in which cities and towns withstood natural disaster as well as secondary phenomena, like the ability to absorb population shifts. CPEX introduced new ways of looking at planning in dozens of Louisiana communities, using proven planning strategies to help neighborhoods become more sustainable while also growing and flourishing.
Appointed president and CEO in July 2018, Manning-Broome is charged with setting CPEX’s vision, building its external relationships with the public and private sectors, fundraising and ensuring it continues to be a national thought leader. Her lengthy tenure with the organization has included the creation of numerous best practices manuals, community toolkits and policy briefs. She and her team have also produced comprehensive plans for more than 20 Louisiana communities.
During her 11-year-plus tenure as CPEX senior vice president, Manning-Broome helped Baton Rouge reimagine Government Street through the Better Block project, a gutsy “tactical urbanism” event that took place over a weekend in 2013. CPEX took two, highly visible blocks of Government Street and set up 25 demonstration businesses and created temporary bike paths.
The project showed in real terms what it would look and feel like if the area were reclaimed as a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare rich in retail establishments and restaurants. Today, the area is exactly that, with the ongoing road diet creating bike lanes on both the north and south sides of Government Street, and blocks awash in local businesses.
Manning-Broome ended up in planning through a personal epiphany. She had earned an undergraduate degree in art history from LSU, and was in the process of working on a master’s degree in the same discipline. During an eight-month stint working in art museums in Paris, Manning-Broome learned about the release of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement mandating emissions reductions. She read everything she could about it and was drawn in by its urgency.
“I started learning about climate change and global warming and it set my career on a new course,” she says.
Back home in Louisiana, she shifted her graduate studies to environmental planning and management.
“All of a sudden, I felt like I just soared,” says Manning-Broome, who focused her research on coastal communities suffering from land loss. “I was so curious and interested in the work. I really fell in love with it.”
2002: Switches gears from an undergraduate degree in art history to graduate school in LSU’s College of the Coast & Environment’s environmental sciences program
2005: Completes Master of Science thesis, the culmination of working in Grand Bayou in lower Plaquemines Parish for over two years
2006: Leads federal government’s efforts on LA Speaks as a member of FEMA’s Long-Term Community Planning Division, helping create 36 recovery plans for coastal communities impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita
2007: Develops Renovate Urban Properties LLC, purchasing a blighted 16-unit apartment complex on Richland Avenue, moving in and renovating one apartment at a time
2009: Co-authors the “Coastal Best Practices Manual,” establishing CPEX as an expert in resilience and adaptation planning
2015: Co-authors “The View from the Coast” and advocates for its implementation, aiming to raise more than $1 million. The success puts CPEX on a trajectory for more sustainable funding and helps establish it as a thought leader on climate change adaptation
2018: Becomes president and CEO of CPEX
Hardest lesson learned
There is significant gender bias in our society. As evidenced through research, success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. Being smart, determined, assertive and ambitious can be very tricky for women.
Proudest business achievement
CPEX has been working for years to ensure that the people and places that make the Louisiana coast vibrant have prospects for a safe, prosperous, and sustainable future. Our current initiative developed in support of this effort is advancing the changes needed in governance to successfully address our coastal challenges. In 2018, through a partnership with the Governor and Governor’s Office of Coastal Activity, CPEX designed and executed the State Agency Resilience Building Workshop, where we brought together the Governor, his Cabinet, and key career staff for two days to discuss how each agency can support our state’s efforts to get ahead of the coastal crisis. What made this an especially proud moment for me was not only seeing many years of hard work culminate in this event, but also witnessing the degree of love, care, and concern demonstrated by the state leaders and agency staff who committed their time and thought leadership to this event.
Necessary workplace change
More women and minorities need to be in positions of power. We need a greater diversity of perspectives in our decision making. Women need to help lead the shift away from the status quo. We need more female policymakers, and we need equal pay so that more women can afford to run for political office.