Berthelot oversees final prayer breakfast event as Gonzales mayor

Wade McIntyre

Mayor Johnny Berthelot’s long career in Gonzales city government inched closer to an end at his 22nd Annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, held at the Gonzales Civic Center Tuesday morning.

During a moving address in which he thanked those who have worked with him during his career, Berthelot said he will have put in 32 years and six months as mayor and city councilman when he steps down in January.

“Eight years on the council and 24 years and six months as mayor,” he said, “if I make it through the year.”

Berthelot spent much of his speaking time thanking those who contributed to the success of the city during his tenure in elective office.

He said he recognized many in the audience who have attended the annual event all 22 years.

He also asked all veterans and all members of the clergy to stand and be recognized, and thanked all the former elected officials in the audience and their spouses, including his wife, Paula, whom he described as the “No. 1 ambassador for the city of Gonzales.”

Berthelot thanked “my best friend Randy ‘Poose’ Gautreau” of Na Na Sha, whom he said sang for his events when he first took office. The group, along with the St. Mark Church folk choir, entertained attendees while they dined.

“They sang me into office, and now they are singing me out,” the mayor quipped of Sha Na Na.

Berthelot said he was a “young mayor with black hair and no stomach” when he first went to a prayer breakfast put on by then-Baker Mayor Pete Heine years ago. He came away thinking he needed the same for Gonzales.

The mayor thanked Harry Robert “and his three sons” for providing the grits, eggs and sausage breakfast for about 400 people, and the Rotary Club of Gonzales for serving the meal. He asked the Prayer Breakfast Committee to stand up and “take a final bow with me.”

He wished his Aunt Ruby a Happy Birthday, and said he was already looking forward to sitting in on the next prayer breakfast “because we have elected good officials” in Gonzales.

“I’m gonna leave Gonzales with my feet up, never before,” Berthelot said.

The mayor closed his address saying, “I’ll never forget all of you.”

The Rev. Phil Spano, pastor of Ascension of Our Lord and St. Francis of Asissi Catholic churches in Donaldsonville delivered the prayer breakfast’s sermon. He asked those in attendance to “be open to God and the mystery of how he calls us to do the good thing.”

He opened his talk with a story about how he grew angry with a wise man whose advise he sought when the man advised him “to do the good thing” when he had to make hard decisions.

Spano said he was angry because the advice was simple – “just do the good thing.”  Only later in life, he said, did he realize how hard it can be to do the good thing.

Na Na Sha and the St. Marks group closed breakfast with a raucous version of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” substituting lyrics that said “when the mayor goes marching out.”