Ronnie Johns is a respected businessman and community leader. His life, from his success as a small-business owner to his service in his church, is guided by two lessons learned early on: work hard and give back.
Ronnie grew up in a small Louisiana town, where his father was the fire chief and his mother a secretary. They worked hard to provide for the family’s needs, but with a larger sense of purpose. “My parents taught me that no matter how little we had, there was always someone else with less and it was our obligation to try to help them. They instilled a sense of obligation to give back to the community in which we live.”
Those lessons at home were reinforced at school. Ronnie attended Catholic schools for elementary and middle school, where discipline was a big part of the education. He recalls with particular admiration a high school principal who pushed the students and demanded honesty, determination, and hard work. It was there, in high school, Ronnie first got involved in politics, becoming student body president.
Discipline in school soon became discipline at work. Barely a teenager, his first job was in 9th grade at a local store where he sold men’s clothing. He had a wide range of summer jobs from pumping gas at a service station to repainting all the city’s fire hydrants. At one point in college, Ronnie held down three jobs at once: delivering campus mail, working in his dormitory’s office, and helping out at a local drug store.
He went to college to study pharmacy and, upon graduation, returned to his hometown as a pharmacist. Having been taught the value of independence all his life, Ronnie wanted to own his own drug store, but was disturbed by the trend of local pharmacies closing down. All around the nation, mom-and-pop shops were being bought out by chain stores. He decided he needed to make a change and, in the early 1980s, opened his own insurance agency. He has never regretted it. “For almost twenty-nine years now, this has been a good decision for my family.”
He has been married to his wife Michelle, a retired teacher, for 27 years. They have a daughter, Claire, whom they adopted. She is a nursing student at McNeese State University and married to fellow McNeese student Alex Broussard. The Broussards have one son, the Johns’ first grandchild. Ronnie’s devotion to his family is apparent from the very first conversation – they are his driving force.
Ronnie is passionate about helping those less fortunate, particularly in the area of health care. He believes real help for those in need and real strength for our communities comes from service, not big-government programs. He is heavily involved with the Calcasieu Community Clinic, which provides free health care for those who work but cannot afford insurance, and a member of the board of directors of Christus St. Patrick’s Hospital. He is also a strong supporter of the Salvation Army of Lake Charles and organizations to serve seniors.
Ronnie’s public service career began after college when he was elected to the city council. Since then, he has remained active in politics, most often by helping others win elections to local, parish, and state offices. In 1995, his business and family were secure and he felt the call of service to run for office. He ran successfully for state representative. In the wake of that election, Ronnie received the best advice of his life. “On the day I was sworn in, my elderly father was there with me, in his wheel chair in the back of the House chamber. I walked over to him to thank him for being with me that day. He pulled me down and said, ‘Son, never forget where you came from.’ Those were powerful words I will always remember.” Remembering the people who sent him and the importance of fiscally responsibility, Ronnie declined the perks of office including state retirement and health insurance – and then co-authored a bill to get rid of them for all part-time elected officials. He never voted for a pay raise, and even donated $1,000 each year of his legislative pay to fund a scholarship for local students.
His legislative achievements reflect his father’s sage advice. Ronnie secured permission for local merchants to offer tax-free sales and promotions, and helped McNeese State University and SOWELA Community College make needed campus improvements.
Drawing on his experience in health care, he took aim at the problem of drug abuse, passing legislation to stop illegal doctor-shopping and pharmacy-shopping. In the first year of implementation, the number of deaths due to prescription-drug abuse was cut by more than 50%. Even closer to home, Ronnie authored legislation to help families through more secure adoption laws and enforcing court-ordered child support. He received the prestigious Russell B. Long Service Award for his work on behalf of families.
Ronnie Johns is being drawn back into public service now because his experience will ensure the people and communities who have been so good to him and his family for the better part of three decades have effective representation in Baton Rouge. He knows he will draw upon those life lessons of discipline, honesty, and service as a legislator at a crucial time for Louisiana. The state faces great challenges, especially a difficult budgetary situation. “Our government must live within its means, and it should do so, like any family would, by tightening its belt and downsizing.” He knows we need smarter, more efficient health care and better schools for our children. Ronnie will put decades of experience to work cutting waste and demanding better performance.