Johnson: ‘Moving forward’Published 6:21pm Saturday, October 27, 2012
Mayor Linda T. Johnson is looking for a fourth term on City Council, including her second term as directly elected mayor.
She was first elected to City Council for the Sleepy Hole borough in 2000, and was re-elected in 2004. In 2006, she was appointed mayor from among the council members.
In 2008, Suffolk’s charter changed to allow for a directly elected mayor. Johnson won a six-way race with 36 percent of the vote.
She graduated from John Yeates High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and journalism. She returned to teach in Suffolk Public Schools, and also has been a public information officer for the State Corporation Commission and an eligibility officer for Suffolk Social Services. She is now a real estate agent.
Johnson says she’s running again “to keep the city moving forward.”
When she became mayor, she said, Suffolk had a negative outlook on its credit rating and less money in savings than it takes to run the city for a day.
“We had holes in the checkbook,” she said. “There were entries, but no money.”
Now, in the midst of a difficult economy, those things have changed, she said.
“We’ve made great strides,” she said. “I just think the future is even brighter.”
Johnson said she should be re-elected because she has built relationships through the years that have helped the city at crucial times, such as after the 2008 tornado and during the uncertainty over the closure of U.S. Joint Forces Command.
“I’ve built the relationships,” she said. “We have to be able to work with whoever we can get to work with us.”
Under her leadership, “Suffolk finally really has a voice at the regional table,” Johnson said. “We had a seat at the regional table (before), but I don’t think they took us really seriously.”
Johnson said the city has been successful in economic development during her term, evidenced by its recent ninth-place ranking in CNN Money Magazine for “Where the jobs are.”
She said she’s ready to tackle upcoming challenges such as transportation, unfunded mandates from state and federal governments, creating more recreational facilities and ensuring workforce education keeps up with the jobs coming to the area.
On transportation, U.S. Routes 58 and 460, as well as railroad crossings, are issues to watch, Johnson said. The city is working on issues of congestion, but she doesn’t regret chasing the economic development opportunities that have contributed to rising truck traffic along the roads because the warehouses where those trucks are headed were needed close to the port.
“If we did not get some of that revenue, it would have been going to the next locality and the next locality, and we’re still going to get the problems,” she said. “We’ve got to have the revenues. We’ve got to have the tax base. We’ve got to have the partnership.”
Downtown change and growth will occur with upcoming city investments there, including a new city hall, she said.
She’s especially excited about plans for a new library, which city leaders hope will incorporate an educational component to help develop workforce.
“When we get the companies, we’ve got to have the workforce,” she said.
Johnson encouraged folks to vote for her on Nov. 6.
“I love this city, and I want to keep working for the citizens.”