Matt Jewell: Honest politician and community servant

PETER SILAS PASQUA ppasqua@postsouth.com
Matt Jewell

PLAQUEMINE – When the Iberville Parish Council on Aging was struggling with payments several years ago, it was Council Chairman Matt Jewell at the forefront of getting the problem corrected.

Today, the Council on Aging has a new facility, increased attendance and is under new direction.

“We got that thing turned around,” Jewell said. “Now, we have one of the better programs in the state.”

Jewell said attendance has jumped from 20 senior citizens a day to 125 at the Plaquemine location while the north Iberville program in his constituency that moved from Rosedale to Maringouin has seen spikes from 12 to 45 daily.

“At the end of the day, it is about the seniors and the programs that we provide for them,” Jewell said. “If you can’t make those tough choices you should resign but everybody was excited about the changing of that program. It took three years but we straighten it out.”

Jewell is currently serving his third term on the Iberville Parish Council and fourth year as Parish Council Chairman. He has been a board member of the Iberville Council on Aging for the past eight years serving as chairman for three.

He began his career in politics as an Alderman of the Town of Maringouin in 1991 and has been elected to the Democratic State Central Committee servicing Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge Parishes from 1996 to 2004.

“I got out of it for awhile and wanted to focus on my business, but someone approached me about running again and that was 11 years ago,” Jewell said. “I represent a minority district and I take my job real serious. I do a good job and take care of my people.”

One of four sons to a postmaster and postal clerk, Jewell’s parents Joseph Lubin and Peggy Jewell worked side by side for over 30 years.

“They didn’t get mixed up in politics because they couldn’t,” Jewell said. “My dad instilled honesty and integrity. He said anybody can be a damn fool but if you go to church, work hard and are for the right things, you can never go wrong.” I guess I get my political

aspirations from my father-in-law, cousin Tom Jewell from New

Roads who served as Speaker of the House under Governor Jimmy Davis and first cousin Judge James Jewell Best.

A 1980 graduate of Shady Grove High School and 1984 graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, he started Jewell Insurance Agency at the age of 22 where he serves as owner/agent.

“When I got out of college, I went straight into business for myself,” Jewell said.

He soon married Kay Badeaux Jewell, the daughter of Rosedale Mayor Lawrence “Football” Badeaux, and she joined him in the business. They have three sons, Clay, 22, and twins, Colin and Cade, 15.

“We have a big old house here in Maringouin,” Jewell said. “They are still living at home and I don’t look for those boys to leave anytime, soon. I think their mama has them spoiled.”

While he has cut back on his commercial fishing business which at one time included a peeling plant, contracts with supermarkets and the transaction of 600 sacks a day, Jewell continues to crawfish.

“We were real big into the meat business but ended up getting out of it,” Jewell said. “I enjoy being on the water and out in nature but now all I do is fish.”

Since Jewell has been elected, all of the parish roads in North Iberville have been resurfaced, while welcoming the additions of the Welcome Center in Grosse Tete and the North Iberville Community Center in Rosedale.

He also approved the construction of a new medical facility that will be run by Ochsner Health System after the former River West Medical Center shut its doors five years ago.

“We are excited about the hospital and look forward to it opening up,” Jewell said. “Each and every one of us gave up a lot of badly needed projects in our districts,  so that we could use the money for that facility. I admire the council for that. We want to see Iberville Parish grow and succeed and will do what it takes to make that happen.”

Jewell said the facility will include a total of 24 beds compared to River West’s 80, which he concluded was uneconomical.

A man who has never missed a meeting since he was elected, Jewell strives to make sure Iberville Parish is portrayed in a positive light.

“I have to thank my council for believing in me and sticking by me to make the changes necessary to keep us out of the negative limelight,” Jewell said. “We have a new direction and I am just tickled to death. I believe in straight honest government and I am not like some politicians looking for a paycheck and a position. I just want to give something back to the community.”

Jewell also serves on the Dow Cap Board and previously served on the Iberville Parish Social Service Board and Iberville Parish Headstart Governess Board. He has been an Iberville Parish Notary since 1984.

“As long as I can keep this pace, I am going to continue to run,” Jewell said. “If I am healthy, I am going to keep making change. When the day comes that I have to slow down, I will let it go. That is what it is all about.”

Jewell is currently restoring the grounds and cemetery plots at the abandoned St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Cemetery north of Maringouin which served as Maringouin's first church.