Poco Sloss awarded The Times-Picayune Loving Cup: “He represents the best of New Orleans and her citizenry”

By John Pope

Source: The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

February 7, 2021

As far as New Orleans is concerned, the stock market’s loss is the city’s gain.

Here’s why. When Poco Sloss returned home with a degree from Georgia Tech, he needed a job, so he decided to try his hand as a stockbroker. As part of the application process, he took a personality test. He scored 92 out of 100 in the empathy category.

“That’s not good for a salesman who sells things that may not go well,” Sloss said.

While his personality was ill-suited to a trading career, it was ideal for civic involvement.

Now Sloss, who helped found a flourishing information-technology business and spent more than a quarter-century serving on a long list of boards and commissions, has been chosen to receive The Times-Picayune Loving Cup for 2020.

The Loving Cup, which celebrates civic activity in the preceding year, has been awarded since 1901 to men and women who have worked unselfishly for the community without expectation of public recognition or material reward.

“He represents the best of New Orleans and her citizenry,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell wrote in recommending him for the honor.

“I’m stunned, to tell you the truth,” Sloss said last week. “My first reaction is that I don’t deserve it, and my second reaction is that I’m too young for it.”

Sloss, 67, started life early – six weeks early, to be exact. Because he weighed only slightly more than 4 pounds at birth, his father dubbed him Poco – Spanish for “a little bit” – and the nickname stuck. He said no one has called him by his given name – Lynes – for more than 10 years.

Times-Picayune Loving Cup winner: Cleland Powell of IberiaBank
Sloss showed early signs of leadership when he was elected president of his sixth- and 12th-grade classes, but he credits his move into serious civic involvement to the volunteer activist Anne Milling, who said she saw his potential when she picked him in 1994 to serve on the board of the Bureau of Governmental Research when she served as chair.

“I saw a young, intelligent, well-respected potential civic leader,” said Milling, a former Loving Cup recipient. “He was well-liked by his peers and respected, but he had never been truly engaged in the bigger community to my knowledge, and this was an opportunity for him to participate, and he took it on, and he soared. The next thing I knew he was chairman of the BGR, and he was loving it. … To watch him today, it’s like he has done it all his life.”

Sloss’ time on the BGR board included August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated southeast Louisiana. In the wake of the storm, when the BGR estimated it had enough money to last about six months, Sloss helped the organization establish an endowment to pay staff salaries and underwrite its studies of governmental functions. He estimated the endowment is between $5 million and $6 million.

In addition to leading the BGR board from 2007 through 2009, Sloss has served on the City Planning Commission, the Sewerage & Water Board, the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad board, and the Board of Liquidation, City Debt.

“There is no other individual I can name who has done the same,” Cantrell wrote in her letter.

While he was on the City Planning Commission, a master plan for the city was drafted and adopted in 2010.

Seven years later, when Sloss was president pro tempore of the Public Belt Railroad, a swap was announced between the city-owned railroad and the port-owned Esplanade Avenue and Gov. Nicholls Street wharves. In exchange for gaining control of the railroad, whose 26 miles of track connect six major rail lines serving the port and industrial facilities, the port gave the wharves to the city.

Sloss has also chaired the boards of the Audubon Nature Institute – twice – and the Louisiana Children’s Museum. He has served on the boards of the Greater New Orleans Foundation; the New Orleans Museum of Art., Trinity Episcopal School and Metairie Park Country Day School, his alma mater.

In addition to his civic duties, Sloss is chairman and CEO of Bellwether Technology Corp., an information-technology services firm. And in 2018, he reigned as Rex, king of Carnival, an honor for which civic involvement is a major requirement.

Christian Brown, board chairman of the McIlhenny Co. who has known Sloss for years, explained in his recommendation letter why he thinks civic groups have been eager to enlist the businessman: “He is a critical thinker who dedicates himself to the causes in which he engages and carries no personal agenda other than to help the organization and our city succeed.”

And when Sloss signs up, he’s all in. “I do think it’s terrible when people join boards and don’t show up, just to have their names on the stationery,” he said. “My rule is if I can’t go, I don’t want to be on it.”

It helps that Sloss actually enjoys the give-and-take that can happen in meetings.

“I like working with groups,” Sloss said. “You have to listen to everybody, and you have to realize that people different from you have a point of view that you don’t have. … It’s been eye-opening in a positive way. …

“I have met and made friends with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. That’s been a big deal to me. It broadens your knowledge of the community and its people.”

After decades of civic involvement, Sloss offers no overarching philosophy for his service.

“Just something corny, like try and improve things,” he said. “Why would you be on (a board) if you didn’t want to make it better?”

Sloss and his wife, Liz, have three children and a granddaughter.

Previous Loving Cup recipients are:

Frank T. Howard, 1901; Isidore Newman, 1902; Sophie B. Wright, 1903; Dr. A.W. DeRoaldes, 1904; Charles Janvier, 1905; W.R. Bloomfield, 1906; and Ida Richardson, 1907. No awards were presented in 1908 and 1909.

Dr. Sara T. Mayo, 1910; Hugh McCloskey, 1911; R.M. Walmsley, 1912; Leon C. Simon, 1913; Deborah Milliken, 1914; W.B. Thompson, 1915; W.R. Irby, 1916; Mrs. John Dibert, 1917; Eleanor McMain, 1918; Mrs. James Oscar Nixon, 1919; Charles Weinberger, 1920; Jean Gordon, 1921; Rudolf S. Hecht, 1922; Simon Schwartz, 1923; Frank B. Williams, 1924; Rabbi Emil W. Leipziger, 1925; and W.J. Warrington, 1926.

J.P. Butler, 1927; Brig. Gen. Allison Owen, 1928; Mrs. A.J. Stallings, 1929; Edgar B. Stern, 1930; B.C. Casanas, 1931; Thomas F. Cunningham, 1932; Felix P. Dreyfous, 1933; Charles A. Favrot, 1934; Warren Kearny, 1935; Nicholas Bauer, 1936; Col. L. Kemper Williams, 1937; and Samuel Zemurray, 1938.

Joseph A. Airey, 1939; Dr. Rudolph Matas, 1940; Charles E. Dunbar Jr., 1941; William G. Zetzmann, 1942; Sister Stanislaus Malone, 1943; A.B. Paterson, 1944; Dr. Alton Ochsner, 1945; Mrs. Joseph E. Friend, 1946; Mrs. Charles F. Buck Jr., 1947; Charles E. Fenner, 1948; Mrs. James Weaks Reily, 1949; and Harry Latter, 1950.

Harry McCall, 1951; Joseph H. Epstein, 1952; Mrs. Ernest A. Robin, 1953; Carmelite Janvier, 1954; A.B. Freeman, 1955; Clifford F. Favrot, 1956; Capt. Neville Levy, 1957; Crawford H. Ellis, 1958; James Gilly Jr., 1959; Martha Gilmore Robinson, 1960; Leon Heymann, 1961; Mrs. Robert Laird, 1962; and Percival Stern, 1963.

Edith Stern, 1964; Darwin S. Fenner, 1965; Edgar A.G. Bright, 1966; Rabbi Julian B. Feibelman, 1967; Harold Salmon Sr., 1968; Lucile Blum, 1969; Lester J. Lautenschlaeger, 1970; the Rev. J.D. Grey, 1971; Clayton L. Nairne, 1972; Norma Monnin Hynes, 1973; William B. Burkenroad Jr., 1974; Francis C. Doyle, 1975; Albert W. Dent, 1976; Richard West Freeman, 1977; the Rev. Peter V. Rogers, 1978; and Harry McCall Jr., 1979.

James J. Coleman Sr., 1980; Armand LeGardeur, 1981; Archbishop Philip Hannan, 1982; Ed Rowley, 1983; Rosa Freeman Keller, 1984; Bryan Bell, 1985; Michael J. Molony Jr., 1986; Mary Pumilia, 1987; A. Louis Read, 1988; Dave Dixon, 1989; Carolyn Gay “Blondie” Labouisse, 1990; Norman Francis, 1991; and Diana Lewis, 1992.

John F. Bricker, 1993; Betty Wisdom, 1994; Anne Milling, 1995; Lester Kabacoff, 1996; Leah Chase, 1997; Sunny Norman, 1998; Herschel L. Abbott Jr., 1999; Alden McDonald, 2000; Waldemar Nelson, 2001; C. Allen Favrot, 2002; Fran Villere, 2003; Moise Steeg Jr., 2004; and Louis Freeman, 2005.

Ruthie Frierson, 2006; Bob Brown, 2007; R. King Milling, 2008; Scott Cowen, 2009; Tommy Cvitanovich, 2010; William Goldring, 2011; Mark Surprenant, 2012; Millie Charles, 2013; Gary Solomon, 2014; Phyllis Taylor, 2015; Roger Ogden, 2016; Cleland Powell, 2017; Michael Smith, 2018; and Bob Merrick, 2019.

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