In 1978, eighteen-year old Debbie Mouton graduated high school with plans to enroll at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. After a last minute change of heart, Mouton decided instead to enroll in the two-year program at Spencer Draughon Business College, during which she attended night classes, worked full-time, and dated her high school sweetheart, whom she would later marry.
Presently, Mouton is the Assistant City Clerk for the City of Central. Throughout her career, she journeyed through a variety of professional roles, striving to learn and grow as a woman. “I’ve been fortunate,” she said, “I feel lucky that in all of my work history, in all the places I’ve worked, women were treated the same as men.” In her experience, it’s important to recognize that everyone has different personalities and interactions depend more on individuality than gender. “Women are just as capable and important as men in serving our citizens.”
Mouton began her professional career at Demco, where she worked for ten years right out of college. After the birth of her first son, Jeremiah, she decided to stay at home for a few years to have time with him before he started school. During that time, Mouton began working part time at City Parish Wastewater Collection Department for David Ratcliff, whom would later become her boss at IBTS.
In 1996, Mouton and her family moved from Baker to Central. “We’ve been in the same house since 1996, and I have no desire to be anywhere else. We love it here,” she said, “This is home.”
After a brief stint working for the United States Postal Service, Mouton attended Real Estate school and earned her license in 1998. “We found out the same day that I passed the Realtor test, I also passed a positive pregnancy test,” Mouton said, smiling at the memory. She worked as a real estate agent for C.J. Brown until her second son, John Paul, was born. Then, Mouton decided to take a break, so to speak, and stay home with her two boys.
During much of her childhood, Mouton’s mother stayed at home. “I do look up to her for that,” she said, “It was very important to her to be with us.” When Mouton went to high school, her mother went back to work. Like her mother, Mouton also went back to work after he sons were a bit older. In 2005, she began working as a Legal Secretary and then Legal Case Manager for various law firms. As her sons have grown, Mouton has worked hard to balance motherhood and professional life. “Both of them are very important jobs,” she said, “you have to make sure your kids succeed and give them every opportunity.”
In 2011, Mouton’s former boss, David Ratcliff, recruited her onto the IBTS City of Central start-up team. “This was a very exciting time,” Debbie said, as she described the challenges and flurry of a new company taking over Central Municipal Services. “Everyone worked very hard to establish each department and the roles each would handle.”
Over the past five years, Mouton has thoroughly enjoyed her position as Assistant City Clerk for the City of Central. “I absolutely love my job,” she said, “There is never a dull moment in the day.” In a position where she is often pulled in many different directions, Mouton says time management is vital. “There are deadlines everyday. You have to set priorities. And they may change everyday depending on what fires need to be put out,” she said, “If you’re overloaded, you have to think about what needs to be done today and what can wait until the next day.” Mouton added, “It is also extremely important to keep an open line of communication with everyone you work with.”
In addition to effective inter-office communication, Mouton must also communicate proficiently with Central citizens, especially those with questions and problems, which constantly arise at the IBTS office. “You have to listen before speaking, and always look at the big picture and try to be compassionate on whatever the issue may be,” Mouton says, “Some people come in and they’re very disgruntled. They’re mad at an issue, so it’s just trying to feel what they’re going through and be compassionate and at the same time try to teach them the way things operate. I know they’re not mad at me,” she continued, “They’re mad at whatever the issue may be.”
With an often high-stress work atmosphere, Mouton finds fulfillment in aiding her fellow Central citizens along with the rest of the city administration, especially with the August flood. “They’re all about helping citizens,” she said, “I’ve dealt with customer relations throughout my career and that’s so important.” In addition to compassion and empathy, Mouton stressed the importance of honesty and effectiveness in leadership, especially in city government. “You need to make things happen and get things accomplished in whatever field you may be working in,” she said, “That’s how I try to be a leader.”
Such effectiveness was more important than ever in the August flood. According to Mouton, Mayor Shelton’s behavior inspired her to lead and aid citizens however she can. “Throughout the flood, it’s like… he <has been> working so hard to help the citizens, and he has done everything he can to make things happen to make things better for citizens,” she said, “It’s not easy dealing with FEMA.” Mouton would know, of course. Like many in Central, she experienced floodwater damage in her home. “We will survive this flood, and it will make us closer and stronger as a family and as a community,” she said. She declined to further discuss her personal experience with the August flood, perhaps for the following reason.
To balance motherhood and her professional life, Mouton emphasized the importance of work and home life separation. “It’s important when you get home to leave your work,” she said, “I try not to worry and not think about things when I’m at work. Same at work, I put my home life away. There has to be a balance.”
Throughout her career, Mouton has always strived to keep learning new things and taking every opportunity to further her education, something she has instilled in her sons. “You should never stop learning,” she advises her sons, “Stay focused. Stay true to yourself. Remember your morals, and always do the best that you can.” For Debbie Mouton, these are the keys to success and happiness.