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After win, Mitchell focusing on St. John student retention

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish School Board member Nia Mitchell now can remove the interim tag from her title.

Nia Mitchell

Mitchell, who has served as the interim board member since December, won the District 10 seat outright with a solid victory in Saturday’s special election for the spot.

Mitchell, of LaPlace, soundly defeated Lisa Johnson Pittman 195 votes (82 percent) to 43 (18 percent).

Lisa Johnson Pittman

Turnout for the election, which also included an election for a Parish Council seat, was under 15 percent.

Mitchell, a longtime educator, had filled the spot left vacant by Rodney B. Nicholas, who resigned to become the chief deputy of the St. John the Baptist Parish Assessor’s Office.

Nicholas had recommended Mitchell for the position.

“I really anticipated the outcome,” said Mitchell, a former teacher who is now an associate director with Friendship Education Foundation. “So many people I talked to said they would support me and vote for me and, obviously, they did. This lets me know that people have confidence in my abilities. Now I can’t let them down.”

Pittman, a frequent St. John Parish public schools volunteer as her children made their way through the system, enjoyed her first election campaign.

It likely won’t be her last, she added.
“It was phenomenal,” she said.  “It was a great learning experience. I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed meeting the people of St. John Parish and letting them know about me. I didn’t really know a lot about politics. I have never been involved with politics. I learned a lot. I learned it’s a lot of hard work. I’ll learn more and go back at it.”

Pittman also said she expects Mitchell will do a good job.

“She’s a smart person,” Pittman said.

Mitchell attributed her success to her grassroots effort to canvass the district.

“We covered every house in the district, walking the neighborhood and knocking on doors, some of them more than once,” she said. “I’ve already dealt with seven or eight issues just since the campaign started.”

Mitchell said her focus now will turn to keeping St. John Parish public school students.

“We are losing students to the private schools and to home schooling,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t even realize so many students were being home schooled until I started going door to door. We need to make our schools a place where people are comfortable to send their children.”