Profession: President and CEO, Alliance Safety Council
Hometown: Lajes AFB, Terceira, Azores Portugal
Family: Three children—Dr. Karie LaFleur, Stephen L. Hudson and Darryl Hudson—and six grandchildren
Years with company: 14.5
There’s a large black and white canvas of two horses on the far wall in Kathy Trahan’s office on North Reiger Road off Siegen Lane. On a beautiful afternoon in April, she sits at a small conference table, swiping the screen on her smart phone, searching for a video of her horse winning a competition. She loves horses, so much so, that she owns four and loans two to LSU’s Equestrian Team.
“Ah, here it is. This is Gypsy,” says Trahan, 60, president and CEO of Alliance Safety Council, a nonprofit that offers safety training to different industries. “She won last week, and I cried. They are like my kids.”
Horses are known for their passion, enthusiasm and energy, and it’s no surprise that Trahan loves them. She has nearly all of the same traits, friends say.
“I hadn’t made that connection, but that makes complete sense,” says Malcolm Brignac, Vistage chair, who has known Trahan since sixth grade. “She is one of the most passionate, courageous, think-outside-of-the-box woman I have ever met. She is always willing to help people and share her wisdom and expertise to help you grow. She is a visionary for sure.”
Her leadership skills were honed early. She is one of eight children—two boys and six girls—and grew up in a house a few feet from St. George Catholic School, which is also her alma mater. As the oldest girl in her family, she says she was “a junior mom.”
“I watched all of the toddlers,” she says. “My mom used to send us all outside to our fenced in yard and I would take care of all of them.”
These skills prepared her for future business ventures. While she graduated from McNeese State University with a degree in electronics engineering technology and taught petrochemical training at Baton Rouge Community College while employed in the industry, she has also owned her own businesses.
She owned a carpet cleaning business, a novelty clown business, and a paint and body shop.
“I like challenges. The best thing you can tell me is you can’t do something and I will prove you wrong,” she says. “And I’m really high in need for autonomy and low in conformity. I like to think outside of the box.”
Trahan says she was first drawn to the job at Alliance Safety Council 15 years ago because of the challenge and the freedom to be progressive.
When she began working for Alliance Safety Council, it was a nascent organization with only 11 employees. Now, it’s a $20 million organization with 108 employees who deliver instructor-led, on-stir computer lab and online safety training to workers in 31 states and two countries. The nonprofit also recently acquired the old Sky Zone building on Industriplex Boulevard and will expand its emerging technologies center there.
She is not sure what the next 15 years will bring but says she is happy where she is. When she is not working, she spends time with her family, three children and six grandchildren, but mostly her horses and three dogs on her 12 acres off of Hoo Shoo Too Road.
She admits she is low on patience and high on purpose but smart enough to hire people smarter and technologically savvier than her.
“We have worked together for a long time and she will introduce me as her external brain,” says Renee Barbier, corporate liaison for Alliance Safety Council. “I can say to her, ‘I understand you want this done today but there are lots of details we need to look at’ because a leader, she is a visionary. She will see things and everyone else will go, ‘Huh?’
1991: Earns degree in electrical-electronics technology at McNeese State University
1992-2002: Becomes a process auxiliary operator and fire squad member, and then an instrument specialist for PPG Industries in Lake Charles
1997-2002: Joins the Process Technology Advisory Board for McNeese State University and Sowela Technical College, and becomes an adjunct faculty member at McNeese State
2002-2004: Serves as director of petrochemical training for Baton Rouge Community College
2004: Becomes the president and CEO of Alliance Safety Council, formerly known as the Safety Council of the Louisiana-Capital Area
2008: Becomes a Certified Association Executive (CAE) through the American Society of Association Executives
2012-2018: Joins the LSU Construction Industry Advisory Council
Working at PPG and the networking opportunities that followed showed me that even as a single parent I was capable of improving the standard of living for myself and my children. Through these experiences, I gained the courage and the ability to challenge myself even more.
First leadership experience
Playing competitive sports showed me the importance of committing both physically and emotionally toward the attainment of a common goal. It also taught me that I hated losing and what discipline, drive and determination was required to avoid it.
Best advice received
Bobb Biehl, an executive mentor I worked with, taught me that being a leader means knowing what is important, why it is important and knowing how to bring the appropriate resources to bear on the need at hand. It is a simple and grounding paradigm that helps me filter and focus, both personally and professionally.