Lunch Keynote Speaker
Ashley Edwards is a leading voice on long-term disaster recovery in the United States, having led the State of Mississippi’s efforts to recover from Hurricane Katrina and other disasters.
In 2005, Ashley joined Governor Haley Barbour’s staff after Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, serving as Deputy Director, and later Director, of Barbour’s Office of Recovery and Renewal, which was formed to manage the largest natural disaster in American history. Ashley was responsible for all aspects of implementing the State of Mississippi’s Hurricane Katrina recovery plan. He oversaw managing and coordinating more than $20 billion in federal funding and created first-of-their-kind programs widely recognized as disaster recovery best practices.
While serving on Governor Barbour’s staff, Ashley also led the efforts to respond to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and served as the Governor’s lead at Unified Incident Command in Mobile, Al, during the spill. Ashley also served as the Governor’s lead for the disaster response related to Hurricane Isaac and Gustav, the 2010 Yazoo City Tornado, the 2011 Mississippi River Floods, and the April 2011 Southeastern Tornado Outbreak, which was one of the most destructive tornado events in American history.
Ashley later served as Executive Director of Governor Phil Bryant’s Office of Recovery, where he was responsible for overseeing the closeout of Mississippi’s Hurricane Katrina long-term recovery efforts and finalizing critical disaster recovery projects statewide.
Today, Ashley serves as the Managing Partner for Recover, Rebuild, Renew LLC (R3), an innovative disaster recovery consulting firm managing projects in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. Ashley also works as a consultant with Gouras & Associates, a multi-faceted public finance and economic development firm with projects throughout the United States.
Before launching his consulting career, Ashley served as President and CEO of the Gulf Coast Business Council, which he led from 2015 until 2022. As CEO of the council, Ashley guided a regional organization that championed the Gulf Coast region's common economic and business interests through a strategic program that included identifying emerging issues, convening resources, framing public policy, and developing transformational and innovative solutions for the Gulf Coast Economy. Before leading the Business Council, Ashley served as Chief Executive Officer of the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, where he led a team tasked with operating the Port Bienville Industrial Complex, Stennis International Airport, and the Economic Development Authority for Hancock County – the largest local economic development organization in Mississippi.
In February 2015, Development Counsellors International named Ashley as one of the nation’s “Top 40 Under 40” Rising Stars in Economic Development, recognizing his contribution to landing SpaceX’s Raptor Engine Development Program in Coastal Mississippi. He has also been named as one of the “Top 10 Under 40” at the One Coast Regional Leadership Awards and received the prestigious One Coast Community Leader Award for his work at the Gulf Coast Business Council. In 2021, Ashley was honored by the Gulf Coast Young Professionals with their Forever Young Award, which recognizes community leaders for mentoring young executives and emerging leaders.
Ashley is an alumnus of The University of Southern Mississippi, where he received his Master’s Degree in Economic Development, and Tulane University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Applied Communications. Ashley is also a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Public Leadership Program, where he received a post-graduate credential for his academic work on public policy in the new economy.