Changing of the guard: Gonzales leaders sworn in during inauguration ceremony

Michael Tortorich
Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley and Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux enjoy a light moment during Friday’s inauguration.

Several long-time Gonzales leaders ceremonially passed the torch to their successors during Friday’s inauguration at the Gonzales Civic Center.

Barney Arceneaux was sworn-in as the city’s new mayor, succeeding eight-term mayor Johnny Berthelot, who was first elected to lead Gonzales in 1984.

Sherman Jackson officially became the city’s first African-American police chief, succeeding four-term chief Bill Landry.

The five members of the Gonzales City Council – Kirk Boudreaux, John Cagnolatti, Terance Irvin, Kenny Matassa and Joe Waguespack – also took the oath. Justice of the Peace John Hebert and Constable Danny Thibodeaux were sworn-in as well during the ceremony.

Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley served as the master of ceremonies.

“Did you get a feeling this morning of how great of a day this would be?” Wiley asked the crowd.

Prior to Arceneaux’s speech, Berthelot spoke about his more than 33 years of service. Though invited to take his familiar spot on stage, Berthelot declined and said he was comfortable speaking from the floor with the rest of the crowd.

“It’s a great day in Gonzales,” Berthelot said. “We have elected a great group of people.”

Just as he’s done many times over the years, Berthelot drew laughs when he asked the crowd to guess the first thing Arceneaux brought to the mayor’s office.

“A hairbrush!” Berthelot quipped. “We’ve never had it there before. I’ve gotten by with a washcloth.”

To give an idea of how long Berthelot served as mayor, he pointed to the fact that he’s hired every current city employee, with the exception of the police department.

Berthelot concluded by calling his years with the city “pure joy.”

“If I can ever do anything for any of you, call upon me,” he said.

Arceneaux said he looks forward to continuing on the track Berthelot and his predecessors started. Traffic congestion, public safety and attracting business and industry are a few of the focal points for the city, Arceneaux said.

Jackson, in his speech, reminisced about the day he went to the sheriff about running for police chief.

“Law enforcement finds you. It picks you. You don’t pick it,” Jackson said.

He gave credit to Landry for giving him the opportunity to be a Gonzales police officer more than 14 years ago.

“We all have a common goal to keep Gonzales safe and to do the best we can do,” Jackson said.

Judges Alvin Thomas and Guy Holdridge were on hand to swear-in the new officials. Mavis Johnson of Donaldsonville sang the national anthem to open the ceremony. The St. Mark’s choir performed before and after the ceremony. The Rev. Wilbert Holmes of New St. John Fellowship led the invocation. The Jambalaya Festival Association provided lunch for the event.

Judge Alvin Thomas, left, gives the oath of office to Gonzales Chief of Police Sherman Jackson.