Sherri Johnston, a LaGrange County Lifer

Sherri Johnston is LaGrange County through and through.


She has spent nearly her entire life in LaGrange County, and currently, is the President and CEO of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation (LCEDC).


Johnston has been in her position for five years. However, she didn’t jump right into the field of economic development after graduating from Marian University. She graduated with an accounting degree but quickly recognized this wasn’t the right path for her.


“I just felt like I needed to be out more in the community. I was most passionate about nonprofit work. So, I kind of had a midlife crisis, and I started applying for some jobs that were really out of my realm and not my background at all,” Johnston said.


Johnston got her start in nonprofit work at the Parkview LaGrange Foundation, but it wasn’t without a memorable first interview. She remembers walking into a boardroom and feeling out of place. Yet, she realized that she had what the other candidates didn’t, and that’s her story.


“I grew up in LaGrange County and still live on the east side. We raised our family here and all my family’s here. It’s such a great place, and I’m super connected. I’ve been here forever, and they gave me a chance,” Johnston said.


When the vice president position opened at the LCEDC, she was intrigued and knew it was the best way for her to continue to have an impact on her community.


“Just the accumulation of everything I love and community development work. It’s helping new businesses. It’s the quality of life initiatives that make LaGrange County a good place. I get to be on a platform, talking about Lagrange County, a place that I love and where people visit, come to live and work here and play.”


Johnston has a lot of pride in her county and appreciates the unique mix of population, type of jobs that are offered and quality of life characteristics.


“We met with somebody last week who lives near Cincinnati. She and her husband come here every year, a couple of times a year, because they love to drive our back roads and just meander about,” Johnston said.


As a LaGrange County lifer, Johnston has been able to watch her county evolve and become a place where her daughters, Lydia and Amelia, can continue to strengthen the roots her family has planted.


“I think the small towns like the Mongo, Howe and South Milford have great community associations that are trying to do some quality of life projects for their residents in the area,” Johnston said. “I think people are wanting to see change now more than ever. I just want Lydia and Amelia to come home, find a place to live and raise a family. I want those amenities for these young people. And I think we realize that now.”


Johnston’s favorite things to do in LaGrange are kayaking the Pigeon River and, in the summer, traveling the backroads to look at the Amish flower beds and gardens.


After some kayaking and cruising around, Johnston is more than likely to stop at one of a few spots in her county for a bite to eat. Her favorites include Destination 814, Fireside Craft Burgers and Brews, Linder’s Tavern and Five Star Pizza.


“They’re all locally owned and great. One place I do love to take people to is if we’re in the Shipshewana area, the Blue Gate Bakery. They have this lemon meringue pie and the meringue is five, to six inches deep. I take a picture of it almost every time I go there because I just am mesmerized by that thing,” Johnston said.


Johnston grew up on a farm in LaGrange Country and her father, Ted Gunthorp, instilled in her at a young age that she was an equal on the farm. While on the farm, he said that she had to be able to do everything he did. She couldn’t pick and choose the jobs she did on the farm. This helped her curate a mindset that she still has today.


“I think you have to be strong and go to get what you want,” Johnston said. “In my mind, there’s no definition of female and male and who should be doing what. Any young female who’s been in my path has heard that story consistently. You go get what you want, whatever that is, and go do your thing.”

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