Baton Rouge - Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that his Chief of Staff, former State Senator Ben Nevers, would step down as Chief of Staff for the Office of the Governor. Sen. Nevers’ resignation will be effective Feb. 28. Former Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), Mark Cooper, will assume the role of Chief of Staff.

“Ben Nevers has been one of my closest friends in the legislature and a fierce advocate for the people of Louisiana for more than 30 years,” said Gov. Edwards. “Following my election as governor, I asked Ben to join this administration when he intended to retire to spend more time with this family. He accepted without hesitation and has done a tremendous job leading this team in our first year. Over the last year and during my time in the legislature, I turned to Ben for guidance, support and prayers, and he has delivered on each. I know I speak for a lot of folks at the state capitol when I say that we will miss seeing Ben around here every day, but we know he won’t be going far. Donna and I want to wish him and his wife, Ann, a happy, relaxing and well-deserved retirement and thank him for his many years of service to our state.”

“It has been an incredible honor to serve the people of Louisiana, from my position on the school board, to the legislature and now for Gov. Edwards,” said Sen. Nevers. “There are some very real challenges facing the state of Louisiana, but I know this governor has the best interest of the people of our state at heart. After all these years, I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I’ve been so blessed to serve the people of this state for so many years, and I’m looking forward to seeing great things from this governor and his team in the future.”

"Ben's ever calming, steady and caring voice will be missed at the state capitol,” said Senate President John Alario. “Throughout his years of service as a school board member, state legislator and then as the governor's chief of staff, Ben has earned the respect and friendship of his colleagues, staff and constituents. He has always been dedicated to giving Louisiana's hardworking families the tools they need to improve themselves, their communities and their state. His public service will be truly missed."

Sen. Nevers served in the Louisiana Legislature from 2000 to 2016, first as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, then as a member of the Louisiana Senate until his retirement last year. Prior to his time in the legislature, Sen. Nevers served on the Bogalusa School Board. He is also the President and CEO of Nevers Electrical and Contracting Company, which he established in 1980. Sen. Nevers is married to Ann Williams Nevers, and together, they have three children – Ben Wayne Nevers, Jr., Julie Ann Nevers and James Andrew Nevers – six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Mark Cooper, originally from Bossier City, will assume the role of Chief of Staff for the Office of the Governor in the Spring. Currently employed as Senior Director of Global Emergency Management at Walmart in Bentonville, Ark., Mark served as the director of the GOHSEP for the State of Louisiana from 2008-2011.

“I couldn’t be happier to have Mark join our team,” said Gov. Edwards. “He brings a wealth of knowledge about our state to this role, and I know he’ll be an invaluable asset to our state. Mark’s managerial experience will be useful as we continue to lead Louisiana on a path to prosperity. I look forward to working with him, and I know the people of Louisiana will be well-served with Mark advocating on their behalf.”

“I am extremely honored to be chosen by the Governor to serve as his Chief of Staff and committed to work with the Legislature and Louisiana’s citizens on his behalf to find solutions to the major issues facing the State,” said Cooper. Whether leading the Los Angeles County recovery team into New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, leading GOHSEP in response to two hurricanes and a major oil spill, or more recently supporting Louisiana’s recovery through Walmart from the historic flooding, I have always had a sincere interest in the well-being of the State and have called Louisiana home. I look forward to this next opportunity and supporting the Governor and his team.”

In addition to his time at GOHSEP, Cooper has almost 20 years of experience with Los Angeles government including executive leadership in business operations for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, County Police and the Department of Beaches and Harbors.

While with Walmart, he has led global emergency management and has become a leader in public/private partnerships including speaking and teaching opportunities at Harvard University, U.S. Naval Post Graduate Program in Monterey, CA, and the National Governors Association. In his current role, he also serves on the United Nations ARISE Executive Board for global resiliency and recently completed two terms on the FEMA National Advisory Council to the Administrator. Cooper is a graduate of the Executive Leadership Program at the U.S. Naval Post Graduate School/Center for Homeland Security and Defense in Monterey, California and holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a Masters in Public Administration, both from LSU.

In the interim, Matthew Block, Executive Counsel to Gov. Edwards, will serve as acting Chief of Staff.