BUSINESS

Rev. Lionel Johnson Jr.: Mayor foresees economic boom in St. Gabriel

PETER SILAS PASQUA ppasqua@postsouth.com
Lionel Johnson Jr.

PLAQUEMINE – Although the City of St. Gabriel has only been in existence for the past 20 years, the municipality is growing by leaps and bounds.

“We have completed a variety of projects and we have a variety of projects going on,” Johnson said. “It has been a busy three years and we have a wealth of things going on.”

“St. Gabriel is growing and it is a vision that I had when I ran. I wanted to have a hand in bringing in certain things. It is a delicate balance between growing and preserving a rural atmosphere but I see a boom in residential development, industrial expansion and improvement in the educational system on the horizon.”

Johnson’s first taste into politics came in 2001 when he was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the St. Gabriel City Council. He later ran for the seat, which he held till 2007.

A native of St. Gabriel, Johnson attended St. Gabriel Elementary, St. Francis of Xavier and Catholic High School before graduating from East Iberville High School.

He went on to graduate from Southern University with an undergraduate degree in English Education and graduate degree in administration and supervision.

Johnson’s two teaching stints included North Iberville where he coached and taught 9-12th grade English and East Iberville where he taught middle and high school English and coached track and boys and girls basketball.

From there, he was appointed assistant principal at Iberville Elementary and principal at East Iberville before working with the Louisiana State Department of Education mentoring first-year principals.

Along the way he was selected Teacher of the Year, Master Teacher and served on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation organization.

But Johnson caught the political bug from his father Rev. Lionel Johnson Sr. at an early age and ran for Mayor of St. Gabriel in 2011. Johnson Sr. had served as Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office chief administrator, on the Southern University Board of Supervisors and the BESE Board.

“My dad was my hero and still is,” Johnson said. “He was the main role model I aspired to be like. I was kind of raised in a political environment so it all fit naturally.”

Since he has been elected, the City of St. Gabriel has completed a sidewalk project, sewer plant expansion, two phrases of street overlaying, drainage work in the Sunshine area and have remodeled parks and City Hall.

“City Hall has always been here at Sunshine High School,” Johnson said. “We have been able to improve the facility while maintaining the integrity. That was important because so many people loved that school.”

The City of St. Gabriel Police Department is also in the process of building a new headquarters while the St. Gabriel Community Center has been remodeled with an expansion on the way.  

“We are working with businesses to develop here in St. Gabriel,” Johnson said. “We just closed an economic development deal with a company that is going to bring in a retail center.”

Johnson is the father of three children Bria, Tyler and Loryn and can often be found officiating Louisiana High School Athletic Association basketball games, which he has done since 1996.

“It is something that I have a passion for,” Johnson said. “I played basketball and I coached basketball, so the next natural thing was to officiate basketball.”

And as the City of St. Gabriel’s 20th Anniversary approaches, Johnson said plans are currently underway for several events beginning with a spring concert series that will run from the last Friday in April through every Friday in May.

In August, a convocation will honor the founders of the incorporated city while a July 4th celebration will include a variety of activities including a concert, comedy show, tailgate party with live entertainment, prayer breakfast and fireworks exhibition.