The official website of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

Council Staff - Keala J. Hughes

Hughes Bio Picture  Keala J. Hughes
      Director of External Affairs & Tribal Relations



Keala J. Hughes serves as the Director of External Affairs & Tribal Relations for the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council). Created by the RESTORE Act of 2012 and comprised of the Governors of the five Gulf Coast States and Cabinet-level officials from six federal agencies, the Council is responsible for restoring and protecting the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and economy of the Gulf Coast.

 Most recently, Hughes served as an Environmental Protection Specialist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Program (GMP). GMP is focused on the health, productivity, and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico and all the communities that rely on this national resource. As a member of the Partnerships Team, she worked to develop a Communications Plan for the GMP, which included tasks such as developing and editing website content and developing public documents to highlight the accomplishments of the GMP staff.  

 Prior to joining EPA’s GMP, Hughes served as the Communications and Engagement Coordinator of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (Task Force). Recognizing the importance of the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama established the Task Force in 2010 bringing together the five Gulf states and 11 federal agencies to undertake its urgent mission: to ensure a more resilient and healthy Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Hughes coordinated stakeholders meetings across the Gulf Coast drawing on the ideas of more than 2,000 stakeholders to assist the Task Force in developing the Gulf of Mexico Regional Ecosystem Restoration Strategy (Strategy). The Strategy identifies the goals for Gulf Coast restoration, along with major actions needed to achieve them.   

 Previously, Hughes served as a Congressional/Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison for the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under FEMA’s Cadre of on-call Response/Recovery Employees (CORE) to provide senior staff with awareness through the eyes of a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, the nation’s largest natural disaster. Hughes worked closely with Congressional, State, Parish, Local and Tribal leaders to provide information and build relationships with those involved in disaster response and recovery programs and activities due to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike.

 A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Hughes earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana and holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. She currently represents her district on the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter Board and is a 2015 graduate of the New Orleans Federal Bureau of Investigations Citizens Academy.