Rachel DiResto guides communities through recovery and resiliency

Rachel DiResto managing director, Emergent Method (Collin Richie)

One of Louisiana’s most challenging moments led to a formative period in Rachel DiResto’s career.

It was the mid-2000s, and DiResto was working as vice president of Plan Baton Rouge, helping to implement Baton Rouge’s downtown plan and then expand those planning efforts to Old South Baton Rouge.

Then hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the state.

“That drastically changed the trajectory of our little nonprofit,” she says. “We had already been thinking of becoming more of a statewide resource that could bring new ideas and development standards to other communities. But when those hurricanes hit, we were really called to take an even more important role.”

And so Plan Baton Rouge became the Center for Planning Excellence, and DiResto—a Hammond native who had earned a master’s degree in urban, community and regional planning while on the job—suddenly found herself in meetings with renowned architects and urban planners from around the world whom she was familiar with only through books.

“They had come to Louisiana to help communities not just rebuild but rebuild better,” she says. “That was an incredible time of growth for me and my career, learning from and working alongside these experts who opened my mind to new concepts and ideas.”

After nearly two decades at CPEX—during which time she worked on several other impactful projects including the Connect Coalition, which advocated for enhanced transportation options between Baton Rouge and New Orleans—DiResto accepted a leadership role with management consulting firm Emergent Method.

“I see Emergent Method as an incredible team of very smart people and problem-solvers,” she says. “I love project-based work, and I love working at the municipal level and the state level—the kind of scale that Emergent Method projects offered.”

As managing director, DiResto says that much of what she learned after the 2005 hurricanes is being applied once again. “I work on disaster recovery housing projects like Restore Louisiana,” she says. “A majority of my work at Emergent Method has been on disaster recovery programs, but also with cities and municipalities that are undergoing some kind of change.”

DiResto’s work involves juggling numerous client projects, so no two days are alike, but one constant is the collaboration she fosters with her team members. “I really try to take the time to mentor and give feedback,” she says. “I tend to be the kind of person who digs in and puts my head down and does the work, but I’ve learned that you can only expand your success if you build a successful team.”

Since many of Emergent Method’s projects are multiyear endeavors or large-scale infrastructure initiatives, DiResto says she makes it a priority to “celebrate the little wins” with her team along the way.

“It’s important to recognize advancements as they come along, since these projects may not see an end anytime soon,” she says. “At the same time, we want to take a fresh look and try to determine what we can do better, and what value we can be adding.”

DiResto also makes time to give back to the community through volunteering with local nonprofits: She has served on the boards of organizations including the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, Front Yard Bikes and Baton Rouge Gallery, and she currently is a member of the board of directors of Baton Rouge Green.

“Those organizations are so incredibly important to Baton Rouge’s fabric,” she says, noting that working with nonprofits has motivated her even during the busiest times of motherhood with her three children, who are now grown. “It’s incredible to see the work they have done to preserve our unique culture.”


Rachel DiResto is a force in community transformation, in Baton Rouge and throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. She led the creation of the Connect Coalition, a regional transit and housing coalition advocating for improved transportation connectivity between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and sparked the adoption of Complete Streets policies, inclusion of transit projects in regional and state plans, and the formation of a Rail Authority charged with implementing passenger rail between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

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