It was a regular Thursday for Julie Gauthier and her family on May 19. Work, school and a dance recital for 4-year-old Claire in the evening were part of the day’s festivities.
But Thursday also had something special in store for bot h the citizens of Port Neches and the Gauthier family as the 34-year-old Port Neches native was only the second woman in the 102-year history of the city to be sworn in to the city council. Former mayor and city council member Frances Monk was the first woman to join the council according to Jamie Louviere, Port Neches City Secretary.
With her husband of 10 years, Blake, their two children, Jake, 8 and Claire watching in the first row of the council chambers and her parents, the honorable Leonard Giblin and wife Diane also witnessing their daughter make history; Gauthier added another achievement to an already sterling resume.
“I’m not surprised at all, she’s always been very task-oriented, and when she’s says she’s going to do something, she gets it done ahead of time,” said Dr. Lani Randall, a former superintendent of the Port Neches-Groves school district who has known Gauthier for more than a decade.
Randall raved about Gauthier, who in 12 years, has gone from 4thgrade teacher to elementary curriculum coordinator for the PN-G district to principal at Ridgewood Elementary the last three years.
“She has a great rapport with her students and parents, and that was something that wasn’t noticed just in the classroom, but campus-wide,” Randall said.
A newcomer to the political arena, Gauthier stressed during her campaign that sitting on city council wasn’t a career choice but an opportunity to serve the citizens of Port Neches. So, with 12 years under her belt of serving students and their parents in the Port Neches-Groves school district, Gauthier, whose father Leonard Giblin served as a county and state district judge for more than 25 years, got the political itch to reach out to all Port Neches residents and announced she’d oppose Matt Vincent, a 12-year veteran of the city council who had never faced an opponent.
“I told her to go for it,” said Blake of his advice to his wife when she suggested the idea of running for council.
Her father, who along with the entire family, spent lots of time helping with the campaign, asked his daughter, “why do you want to run?” when she proposed the idea to him.
Her answer was simple – “you did it” – referring to the times he ran for both county and state judge positions – and that was enough to convince Giblin that his daughter was ready to jump into politics.
But before his daughter embarked on her political journey, Giblin offered her some crucial advice.
“Do everything you can while you’re campaigning,” said the retired judge, “do all the stuff you’re supposed to do, contact as many people as you can. Work as hard as you can on the election, and then whatever happens; you’ve done all you could do. Don’t wake up after the election and say ‘I wish I would’ve done one more thing.”
And according to the results on Election Day, where Gauthier enjoyed a decisive 936 vote to 506 vote advantage over Vincent, it was evident that the Gauthier campaign took her dad’s advice.
“We worked very hard, we did a lot of campaigning through Facebook, and we had a campaign web site that we used so people were able to get information about me and what I stood for and what my thoughts were,” Gauthier said.
But she credits a lot of her success to those around her in her campaign.
“It wasn’t just me alone, I had a lot of people that helped me out,” she said, adding that her family, friends and volunteers were all instrumental in making her campaign a success.
“It takes a lot of work and organization, and you’ve got to have a lot of people you can depend on to help you through it,” Gauthier said. “But I had a great time doing it, met lots of great people and it was interesting to get out and learn more about your city and what the thoughts are of the residents of the city and where they want the city to go.”
With the campaign over, her first election under her belt and even her first council meeting out of the way, the tireless Gauthier said she’s going to have no trouble balancing her busy life between work, family and now the city of Port Neches.
“I’ve always been good at balancing and multi-tasking in my life,” said Gauthier, “I’m a very organized person, so I know how to keep things in perspective and use my time wisely. I have a lot of support from my husband; my parents and in-laws are huge supporters, so we get it done.”
As for what the future holds for Gauthier, who holds the distinction of being an educator and politician, she’s taking a measured approach.
“I haven’t really thought that far yet,” she said, “I’m taking it one step at a time, and where I’m at now, we’ll re-evaluate three years from now and see where I want to go. If the city still wants me to represent them as their councilwoman, then I’ll be more than happy to do that.”