The veteran councilman still takes a hands-on approach to solving problems in his district. He drives every road in his district to see things for himself and tackle issues head on.
In his tenth year of service on the Ascension Parish Council, District 11 Councilman Benny Johnson still looks at every issue with fresh eyes and an open mind. He doesn't let the old way of doing things overshadow the best way, and he always looks for new methods to improve government. Over the past decade he has remained true to his promise to do what's right for Ascension Parish.
Although this is his first elected office, Johnson is no stranger to public service. The councilman has worked as a volunteer firefighter in St. Amant for years. Johnson has even served as chief of Fire District #7, as well as chairman of the Fire Protection Board for Fire District #1. He said it was that service that peaked his interest in politics and led him to serve in this new capacity.
"It was just another way that I could help people," said Johnson.
Improving safety in his district is one issue that Johnson wanted to tackle upon joining the council. Fixing two condemned bridges on the Bert Allen ditch was a top priority when he took office. Johnson worked with former-parish president Martinez and the council to get those projects started. Widening the deadly roadway made for safer travel along the road.
"With a fire station just south of there, those firetrucks had to go across that bridge on Roddy Road fairly routinely, and so that was a big concern of mine as a fire chief," said Johnson.
When Johnson was elected to office a decade ago, he said there was a lot of head-butting between the council and the administration. That has since resolved itself, he said, as the body has a much better working relationship these days. Although differences of opinions can't be avoided at times, today members are able to come across the aisle and do what's best for the parish.
"That's what it's all about," said Johnson. "It's about trying to make things better for the people we represent."
Drainage is a key issue for the council with worsening flooding problems across the parish. Increasing capacity at the pumping stations, cleaning out ditches, and working to extend levees are just some of the ways the council is working to keep rising waters where they need to be. That includes working across parish lines with neighboring communities to find the best solutions for the region. As with any issue, it all comes down to dollars, and partnering with other parishes could help.
"We're trying to find innovative ways to come up with funding for projects that not only benefit our citizens but benefit the region, especially in a drainage issue," Johnson said.
The new government office building in Gonzales is another improvement the council helped achieve. Johnson values good business and is proud of the money-saving strategies the council used to make this dream a reality. He said everything that could be salvaged from the old building was, and an auction was held to get rid of everything, as opposed to throwing it in a landfill. The dollars that were saved in demolition were used in construction of the new state-of-the-art facility.
"We do things from a more innovative standpoint to change the way government was done in the past to save the people money and get things done," said Johnson.
The veteran councilman still takes a hands-on approach to solving problems in his district. He drives every road in his district to see things for himself and tackle issues head on. When constituents call Johnson with a problem, he helps them help themselves by pointing them in the right direction and following up to make sure the issue has been resolved. It's an effective method for getting things done in a timely fashion.
Outside the parish council, Johnson also works for Exxon in Baton Rouge, where he has worked for 26 years. That's a pretty busy schedule for anyone, but Johnson still finds time here and there to enjoy Sportsman's Paradise. He likes to hunt, fish, and camp while spending quality time with his family.
Johnson's son shares his love of the great outdoors, as he has recently become an Eagle Scout. Johnson helped his son with his scout service projects, which included building benches for the staff at the new government office building. Johnson's oldest daughter recently graduated college, and his younger daughter is working on her undergraduate degree. His wife is a teacher at East Ascension High School and directs the choir at their church.
All in all, Johnson is an experienced public servant with family values, an open mind, and a desire to serve the people.
Follow Halen on Twitter: @LikeVanHalen