Eradicating Poverty

Bringing New Life to the Bayou

Aly Rau header

Growing up in Louisiana, Aly Rau saw firsthand what it means to live your values. She learned hard work and perseverance by watching her mom work two jobs and earn a college degree all while raising three kids as a single mother. Her grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran, taught her love of country and public service. And her grandmother, a Korean immigrant, helped her gain a perspective on the freedoms offered by the United States—and where more progress could yet be made.

It’s these past lessons and experiences that have shaped Aly into who she is today as a wife, a mother, and an example of the best the freedom movement has to offer. “I do what I do because I love my country,” she said. “I love my community, and I have two little boys that I'd like to see grow up in Louisiana and be able to stay here and raise their families.”

In her professional life, Aly has applied these values by helping address some of the deepest challenges faced by her home state of Louisiana. The state is troubled by a lack of economic opportunity thanks to high taxes and overregulation, driving many residents to move elsewhere. As chief of staff at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, an Atlas Network partner, Aly built a team dedicated to fixing these problems. They seek to preserve Louisiana’s unique and vibrant culture by making it a place where people want to stay to raise families—or even relocate to.

Aly worked closely with Pelican Institute CEO Daniel Erspamer to rebuild the organization practically from scratch. After the untimely passing of founder Kevin Kane in 2016, Daniel quickly stepped up to relaunch the organization and get it back on track. Aly was his first hire.

“I think when you have a brilliant visionary like Daniel, you've got to pair that with someone who can take that big picture and break it down, make it really tangible,” Aly said. “And so that's really where I've come in with working to recruit talent. Without incredible people executing on that vision and mission, you're not going to go anywhere.”

But she brought more than just business know-how. She helped foster an environment of camaraderie, team work, and positivity. “If we can't have fun, this can be really hard work,” Daniel said. “If we can present something that is light hearted and optimistic, that's the way we're going to approach. Being able to approach big, hefty ideas with humor and optimism and that joie de vivre has really made a difference in standing out among our ideological opponents.”

This collaborative environment has carried Pelican Institute through many hard-fought wins. After Daniel secured Atlas Network grant funding through one of the organization’s pitch competitions, their team stepped up their effort to roll back Louisiana’s incredibly restrictive job licensing laws. The state poses license requirements on more jobs than any other in the United States—even requiring a license from the state for a resident to practice as a florist, the absurdity of which the team highlighted in a recent video skit.

Through their Right to Earn a Living project, Pelican Institute set a precedent in favor of rolling back these requirements. They helped pass legislation of the same name, which put the burden of proof on lawmakers to show that individual license requirements are necessary for public health and safety. This has not only made it much more difficult for the state to issue new licensing regulations, it has created a legal pathway for those harmed by current requirements to sue to have them repealed. Pelican Institute is now representing two veterinarians, one of whom is the subject of an Atlas Network documentary, as they seek the removal of overly-restrictive rules on the recognition of valid out-of-state veterinary licenses.

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Aly attends COO Summit with leaders from other Atlas Network partner organizations.

The Pelican team has made a point to connect with Atlas Network and other partner organizations across the United States. Daniel pointed Aly toward Atlas Network Academy, which provided her with opportunities to grow her skill set. She also attended COO Summit, where she exchanged ideas, experiences, and challenges with other executives from across the global network. Aly and the Pelican Institute worked closely with the Goldwater Institute and their Director of Strategic Engagement Heather Curry to advance the Right to Earn a Living Act, legislation for which Goldwater Institute had developed a model. They also joined the “Alliance for Opportunity,” a collaboration with Georgia Center for Opportunity and Texas Public Policy Foundation focused on lifting families out of poverty

Aly now serves as Assistant Secretary for Family Services in the Louisiana state government, where she continues to advocate for policies that promote freedom and help everyday Louisianans—just as she did working with the Alliance for Opportunity. But she continues to cheer on Pelican Institute as they transform their state into a better place for all. “My team makes me hopeful,” she said. “The fact that there are people that raised their hands to do really hard work but win. Their dedication, the leaders that go through our leadership programs, they’re incredible. They’re having a significant impact across our state. That gives me hope.”