Bogalusa Citizen of the Year

Published 8:38 am Monday, June 9, 2014

The 2013 Citizen of the Year for Bogalusa, Johni Miles-Blount, was honored Thursday with a reception at the Bogalusa Country Club.

The awards ceremony, sponsored by The Daily News, was attended by a large crowd of the honoree’s family members, friends and fellow community volunteers.

Following a recognition of past recipients by 1974 Citizen of the Year Merlin Duke, last year’s recipient, Carol Duke, shared her reflections.

Duke, who volunteers along with Miles-Blount at the Museums of Cassidy Park, spoke about the importance of service to one’s community.

She urged the people not currently working with any organizations to get involved.

“Be part of what we are in this community,” she said. “We are the sum of our parts, and our community needs each and every one of us to be a part of it — to work with it, to make it better.”

Several people discussed different aspects of Miles-Blount’s community involvement and work in helping others.

Oneita Graham’s comments focused on the topic of professionalism. She told attendees about the various degrees Miles-Blount has attained, including a Master of Arts in secondary education and community education from Southeastern Louisiana University and others, and her years of service as an at-large member of the Bogalusa City Council.

Miles-Blount chaired multiple committees, completed extensive training and attended countless meetings and conferences, “always with an eye on using the information to help our city and seeking ways to further economic development in our city,” Graham said.

She said Miles-Blount is a great example of professionalism.

“She brings enthusiasm and integrity to everything she undertakes,” she said. “She is never satisfied 100 percent dedication in what she does but strives to become educated and to set a precedent for all of us to work toward.”

Next, 2006 Citizen of the Year Beverly Sheridan spoke about volunteerism and how Miles-Blount has given of her time, working to make Bogalusa a better place.

“As a volunteer, Johni contributed through skills, advice, experience, friendship, vision, leadership, inspiration and, many times, just plain hard work,” she said.

In addition to her current role as Friends of Cassidy Park Museums president, Miles-Blount has devoted many years of service to the Camp Fire Towazi Council and has been a volunteer with Youth Service Bureau CASA and Helping One Student to Succeed.

Miles-Blount has been United Way president and a member of the Board of Directors and has worked with numerous other organizations. She has devoted much time to organizing a variety of fundraisers and community events, as well, Sheridan said.

She said Miles-Blount has made a donation of a precious commodity — time.

“Today, Johni, we take a little time out to thank you for the amazing time in that you spent, and continue to spend, for the good of our community. Sincerely, we thank you for your time,” she said.

The honoree’s sister, Dr. Jan Hudson, also offered comment, speaking about spirituality and how it has influenced the 2013 Citizen of the Year.

She said their mother, Melba Hudson, was one of the most important people who anchored them in Christianity. She said their mother made sure her children were in church and Sunday school each week and were involved in all the church activities.

Hudson said she and her siblings were encouraged to continue their Christian fellowship, and Miles-Blount did just that. She said her sister stayed in the church as she grew up, and she now attends Elizabeth Sullivan Memorial Methodist Church in Bogalusa.

She noted Miles-Blount has always had an attitude that if she sees someone in need, she should try to help. She said that help came financially, when she had it, and through encouragement and prayer.

“I think Johni has always had her faith, and she used that faith to get her through all the good times and all of the bad times,” she said. “She had no doubt that there was a God, and she had no doubt that that God had a hand in everything she did.”

When it was her turn to make her acceptance remarks, Miles-Blount said she was honored to be chosen as Citizen of the Year.

She said people in Bogalusa fall into two categories: the “been heres” and the “come heres,” the people who came to the city from somewhere else.

“So here I am, a come here who now lives like a been here,” Miles-Blount, who moved to Bogalusa in 1976, said.

She opened a business, School Marm’s Preschool, in the city in 1981 and began getting involved in different activities.

“I quickly found out that by being involved, I began to feel a sense of community,” she said.

She said she felt blessed to have a business in the city and to be able to raise her son, Trey Davis, in a caring community.

Miles-Blount introduced the members of her family who were in attendance, thanked a number of people who have worked with and supported her and offered some closing remarks.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you make, how much power you think you might have, how you dress, what kind of house you live in or what kind of car you drive,” she said. “What matters is your family, your friends, the fact that you’re always trying to touch someone else’s life in a positive way and that you’re always trying to make things better for the next person coming along.”

The ceremony also included several awards presentations.

A medal and framed newspaper article from The Daily News was presented by General Manager and Managing Editor David Vitrano, while a gift from past recipients was bestowed by 2010 honoree Bertha “Bert” Breland.

Additionally, Mayor Charles Mizell presented Miles-Blount with a key to the city and thanked her for her contributions to Bogalusa.

“You’ve advocated for beautification, volunteerism and preserving our history,” he said. “Bogalusa is a better place and a richer city for having you as a citizen.

“It’s very fitting that you be named Citizen of the Year for 2013.”