A Day in the Life of: Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson on June 14, 2011

Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson is the first female elected to preside over Gwinnett County’s largest city. She continues a family legacy seeped in public service.

Her alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. In solitude, she does a morning bible study exercise. After dressing, she and a friend, set out on their daily three and a half mile walk. Timing for the walk varies because along the way they frequently stop to talk to others encountered. With walk completed, she returns to her home to get ready to go into the office. Driving herself, she arrives at her office in City Hall.

And now her day officially begins.

“I was here this morning at 6:25,” said , “because that is a good time to catch up on correspondence. I write letters, emails and speeches. If the speech is about Lawrenceville, I can just talk off the cuff; if it is a specific introduction like the National Day of Prayer, more thought has to be given.”  

Each day, if her schedule permits, Mayor Johnson will make morning visits to city departments. On this day the mayor pops into the Data Processing, Utilities and Courts accounts payable departments. She greets most if not all of the staff by their first names; and in response they simply call her mayor.

Back in her office, she fields questions from staff, goes over her schedule for the day and awaits the arrival of 10-year-old Khallel Phommavong. Khallel, courtesy of his mother, won the prize of being “Mayor for a Day” at a bingo contest, called by Mayor Johnson at .

Shortly after Khallel’s 8:45 a.m. arrival, Johnson instructs him on some of the daily duties that are performed by the mayor.

9:00 a.m. Mayors Johnson and Khallel sit down with 15 , in a quarterly held meeting, to discuss related issues, city ordinances and growth opportunities. Businesses represented in this meeting included: , , , , , , , , and (which also served as host location for the meeting).

During the meeting Mayor Johnson informed the business owners and operators of the changes to the city’s and how these changes would affect them. Mayor Johnson relayed information about the crosswalk construction, changing one-way directions on Perry and Crogan streets to two-ways, downtown general information kiosks and signage and to the posting of a police officer on the square for security only.  She responded to questions about A-frame signage, liability, enforcement and the parking garage.

Before concluding this meeting the conversation shifted to events and ideas for increasing awareness about each others’ businesses, cross marketing actions, extending hours of operation and growth opportunities associated with events held downtown.

“I wish that I could bring bus loads of customers to each and every one of you,” said Mayor Johnson.

10:15 a.m. To provide detailed responses to questions from business owners and operators, the mayors dropped in on the Planning & Zoning Department to speak with the director, Dennis Billew. While there the mayors also reviewed aerial maps of proposed park land.

10:25 a.m. In their office, the mayors returned telephone calls, checked voicemail, respond to messages and sort through mail. 

In response to how has being a teacher for 28 years transitioned into being the mayor Johnson said, “When I was a teacher I took pride in helping students; that was my number one priority. Now my number one priority is helping the citizens and business community.”

10:45 a.m. Mayor Johnson gave Mayor Khallel a behind the scene tour of the city council chambers. Khallel got to sit in Mayor Johnson’s seat on the dais and wheel the gavel. This gavel is special to Mayor Johnson because it was used and given to her by her father, former eight term .

“My dad had his legacy and I am proud of him, but I just want to fill my shoes well,” said Johnson. 

11:00 a.m. Robert “Robbie” Paul, Assistant Water Superintendent, pick up the mayors to take them to the city’s new water treatment plant. At the plant Mayor Khallel is treated to a tour of the facility that has not opened to the public. Mayor Khallel got the royal treatment from Jim Sunta, Senior Process engineer with Precision Planning, and Brandon Dow, Assistant Project Manager with Reynolds, Inc. Both mayors Johnson and Khallel gave the project thumbs up.

12:00 p.m. On the way out to lunch, Mayor Johnson hands off drafts of Proclamations to be created by Wanda Phillips, Executive Assistant. Continuing Mayor Johnson’s support of downtown businesses, lunch was a slice a pizza from with a choice of beverage for young mayor Khallel. A quick stop was made in Magnolias where both mayors sampled a homemade body cream. And then it was off to Rita’s where they both had Italian Ice for dessert.

1:00 p.m. While Mayor Johnson sat in on the , Mayor Khallel sat in the gallery of the city council chambers, munching on his dessert. In this meeting Mayor Johnson was given an update on the program’s progression in the city. She was also given some statistics that included the federal government finding that the median income has fallen 4.187 percent since last year. Bill Kingsbury, Director of Gwinnett County Neighborhood Stabilization Program told Mayor Johnson that the NSP3 program expects to purchase its first house in the city in September of this year. 

This was a joint city and county meeting. Attendees included Bill Megan, Gwinnett County Housing Program Coordinator; city Quality of Life officers Lt. T.E. Wallis, D.W. Phillips, city Planning & Zoning Director Dennis Billew, Assistant to the City Clerk Karen Pierce, and City Clerk Bob Baroni .

2:30 p.m. For the first time in the day, the mayors split up for a ride to the Police Department. Mayor Johnson drives her personal vehicle and Mayor Khallel got to ride in a fully equipped police SUV driven by Lt. Wallis.

“I drive my own car to save the city some money. I don’t have a designated parking space because I don’t feel I am any more special than all of the other people that work for the city; and I don’t have a decal on my car because I like blending in,” said Johnson.

The tour of the police department for Mayor Khallel included a stop in the canine kennel, sitting on a police motorcycle in a helmet with the lights and siren on. Khallel got an exclusive look into the department’s armory, tried on a bullet proof vest and he interacted with officers all along the way.

Before returning to the office Mayor Johnson took Mayor Khallel on a drive by of the city’s garage and vehicle repair shop. And a site visit was made to the proposed Jackson Street Park land.

3:10 p.m. Back in Mayor Johnson’s office, Mayor Khallel spends his last twenty minutes in the mayor’s chair. Mayor Johnson took this opportunity to ask Khallel about his day as mayor.

When asked his favorite part of the day Khallel said it was (jokingly) firing Lt. Wallis and Police Chief Randy Johnson. And his second favorite acts were denying raises for the three city staffers that had asked for them.

His least favorite activity for the day was, he said, “Going to all of those meetings”.

Mayor Johnson said that Khallel had informed her of something that she did not know, Superman’s real name. You see Khallel’s father is a huge fan of Superman, so much so that he named his son Khallel, which is Superman’s birth name.

By the time Khallel’s mom came to pick him up at 3:30 p.m., he had received an up close and personal view of running a city, a city lapel pin from Mayor Johnson, a police badge pin from Chief Johnson (before Khallel jokingly fired him) and a City of Lawrenceville baseball cap, from City Clerk Bob Baroni.

All treasures to remind Khallel of the time served as “Mayor for a Day”.

4:15 p.m. Mayor Johnson, after responding to emails and voicemail messages, finalizing the itinerary for the next day and several impromptu meetings with staff and vendors, leaves for home to dress for two evening events.

5:15 p.m. Fifteen minutes before The Lawrenceville Tourism & Trade Association Golden Hammer Awards, Mayor Johnson arrives. The mayor, sitting with Erik Frandsen, 25, and his brother Christopher, 21, of Frandsen Architects, watches as business owners receive their Golden Hammer awards for new business constructions and renovation projects undertaken by them.

Mayor Johnson picks up two awards: one for the city’s restoration of the Historic Buggy Steps and the second for the restoration. Before heading out to the final event of the day, Mayor Johnson hands Councilman Tony Powell both of the city’s Golden Hammer awards.

7:30 p.m. Our day came to a close with Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson.


Tidbits about Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson:

Favorite Job Duties: “Helping the citizens of Lawrenceville and recognizing people and their achievements that go unrecognized.”

Least Favorite Job Related Task: “Traveling to the other side of Atlanta for a 5:30 p.m. meeting during strategic traffic time.”

Second Least Favorite Task: “Trying to come up with something different to wear every day.” 

Favorite Meal:  Bacon and Eggs with a side of fresh strawberries

Marital Status: Married 30 years to Allan

Favorite Color: Blue

Favorite Pastime: Reading and Playing the Piano

Birthday: December 28                                      Age: 59

Any Three Dinner Guests Selection:  “Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, and my father, Rhodes Jordan.”

Something that most people do not know about you: “I was the president of my sorority, Sigma Beta Sigma.”

Education: Associate Degree, Young Harris College, Young Harris, GA

                  B.A. Degree, Business Administration, LaGrange College, LaGrange, GA

                 Masters of Art in Teaching, Math, The State University of New York,   

                 Binghamton, NY

                  Education Specialist Degree, University of Sarasota, Sarasota, FL

                  Ed. D., Argosy University, Sarasota, FL


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