Alice Foster Award: Stuart Hodnett, City of West Monroe
Louisiana’s former First Lady, Alice Foster, played a crucial role in beautification and preservation efforts across the state to launch Keep Louisiana Beautiful. The Alice Foster Award is the most distinguished and highest honor KLB awards each year, and it recognizes individual volunteers for their exceptional leadership in litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling, and beautification.
After living a number of years in Tennessee, Stuart Hodnett felt the urge to “come home.” Although he had enjoyed living away, the need to return to his roots was compelling. When he decided to return to Louisiana, Hodnett believed that the move was an answer he had been seeking to help his hometown. He chose to work on environmental issues – recycling, litter abatement, and beautification – and has engaged countless citizens to make a difference with him.
About the same time of his return back to his roots, Ouachita Green was formed and began coordinating litter abatement and beautification projects around Ouachita Parish. Stuart volunteered for some of those early Ouachita Green events and attending some of the meetings. As fate would have it, Stuart realized a career goal of working professionally in the area he dearly loved, the environment.
Stuart became Ouachita Green’s first coordinator and immediately began bringing different groups together with enthusiasm and dedication necessary to make a difference in the community. In addition to taking the lead on Keep America Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup each spring, Water Sweep in the fall, Household Hazardous Waste Collection Days, he volunteered his time in both religious and secular spheres. Stuart is an active volunteer in his church, Chamber of Commerce, Keep Louisiana Beautiful, Keep West Monroe Beautiful, Keep Ouachita Beautiful, and Keep Monroe Beautiful. He believes that each volunteer opportunity builds faith and character to handle the next opportunity that crosses his path.
Stuart’s true gift is engaging people in the mission of his work by sharing his vision of a clean and green community. He sees the biggest immediate challenge to be litter abatement and actively invites organizations, clubs, and church groups to create volunteer teams to address the problem. In 2019, Ouachita Green along with 1,379 volunteers removed 99,255 pounds of the litter and trash that filled roadsides and waterways. Stuart hopes to continue to build on the region’s recycling efforts by one day establishing curbside recycling in his community. He worked closely with the City of West Monroe to open the only curbside recycling dropoff facility in the area.
Now promoted in 2020 to Parks and Recreation Director, Stuart Hodnett is responsible for overseeing the city’s parks system which includes Kiroli Park, Restoration Park, Lazarre Park, among others. He is also responsible for overseeing the city’s recreational programming which includes youth basketball, adult basketball, adult softball, and pickleball. Because his roots began in beautification, he believes it is a key component to care for the environment. Although planting trees is a major part of these efforts, Stuart will always have an eye open looking for the offending piece of litter to collect.