Q & A With The New President of the Jefferson Chamber

Ruth Lawson

Ruth Lawson Headshot 1

Tell us about yourself. How did you get started on your career path?  I was raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and attended high school at St. Joseph’s Academy.  After graduating from LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business with a BS in Marketing, I received my Juris Doctor and Graduate Diploma in Comparative Law from LSU’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center.  I started my career in the Jefferson Parish Attorney’s Office as an Assistant Parish Attorney and became head of the transactional section two years later.  I was asked to join Parish President John Young’s Executive Staff as a Chief Administrative Assistant, where I administered several Parish departments.  Following President Young’s tenure, I was hired as Corporate Attorney for Barriere Construction Company.  After several rewarding years at Barriere, I returned to public service as the Executive Director of the Jefferson Parish Finance Authority.  My passion for serving both the private and public sectors led me to my current position as President of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.  

What made you want to step up as the new President of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce?  Our public servants and business leaders have so much to be proud of during the last two years.  The ability of our elected officials and business leaders to work together allowed Jefferson Parish to not just survive but thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic.  After several difficult years as a small business owner and public servant, I wanted to be a part of the continued success of the Jefferson Parish business environment.  The Jefferson Chamber of Commerce has been the leading voice for business in our region, and I look forward to continuing its success.  

As a small business owner, you have an insider’s view of what matters most to our business community. After living through the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly two years, what should all community leaders be focusing on to support local businesses?  Over the last two years, our businesses have endured many challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Ida, supply chain issues and labor shortages.  Many small businesses were required to reimagine their business model in how they offer services and goods.  For example, as a Smoothie King franchisee, we generally relied on walk-in/drive-thru service. However, during the pandemic, we shifted our focus to catering and were able to capitalize on the need for containerized meal replacements.  Small business owners must be nimble during this time, and as leaders, we must provide the necessary resources and information.  We help support local businesses through Prosper Jefferson, the Vision and Voice video series, access to our elected officials and much more.  We must focus on the health of our community and on supporting free enterprise.  

You’re a graduate of the Leadership Jefferson program. How did that experience change the way you think about leadership?  The Leadership Jefferson program is an incredible asset to its graduates and the Jefferson Parish community.  Each session, we focused on different topics which include education, healthcare, quality of life concerns, criminal justice, diversity, community involvement and economic development.  The exposure allowed me to not only concentrate on issues relevant to me personally, but issues that all of Jefferson Parish is facing.  It provided direct access to our local leaders and activists.  And, because it must be said, the Class of 2021 was the best Leadership Jefferson class!    

What’s one Chamber program or focus area that you’re most excited to take on?  I am most excited to continue the Chamber’s focus on advocacy for pro-business policies and legislation.  The Chamber has supported numerous pro-business policies and legislation, such as state income tax reform, lowering of car insurance rates, early childhood education funding and renewal of tax millages which provide water, drainage and sewer services and additional funding for economic development and the criminal justice system.  I will be attentive to and proactively act on the issues important to our members and the business community as a whole.   

What challenge, be it personal or professional, are you most proud of overcoming?  Having not been born and raised in Jefferson Parish, I am most proud of the relationships I have built here both professionally and personally.  My career has prepared me for this exciting opportunity to serve as President of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.  I will forever be a resident of Jefferson Parish and will work tirelessly to make it a better place to live, work and play.  

What’s the best piece of advice you would offer to young professionals right now?  My best piece of advice for young professionals is to work diligently in your career, get involved in the community and don’t wait for the next big opportunity to land in your lap.  The Chamber offers several opportunities to interact with local business leaders and elected officials.  Take advantage of these opportunities to learn their successes and challenges. Then, use your fresh, innovative ideas to excel in your career.  

One final question. How would you describe the current state of Jefferson Parish?  Jefferson Parish is thriving!  We have worked hard to provide an attractive business climate and have welcomed many new businesses in our Parish.  Sales tax collections are projected to increase by approximately 18% in 2021 compared to 2020, which showed a 2.37% increase over 2019.  The collaboration between business organizations, leaders and elected officials has made Jefferson Parish shine!