PORTSMOUTH — When the petition filing deadline for the 2021 Primaries passes Feb. 3, one current Portsmouth City Council member’s name will not be on that list.
In a Facebook post Monday morning, Mayor Kevin Johnson announced he will not be seeking reelection this year and encouraged interested individuals to cast their names.
“My term as Mayor/3rd Ward Councilman will end this year and after much thought and lots of prayer I’ve decided not to seek reelection,” reads in part of his post. “I put this on social media today because I’d like to strongly encourage anyone with a desire to serve their city, has the available time, and wants to see our City to continue to move forward in a positive way, and meets eligibility requirements of City Charter, Please consider this position.”
Serving the city for nearly nine years, Johnson said in an interview with the Portsmouth Daily Times the time to step away from the role had come after a yearlong conversation with his family.
“I just feel like I am being led to do different things,” he said, a feeling brought on through his faith, a vital part of his life. “We’re not going anywhere or moving away; I’m just not going to be serving on council.”
A “priceless” experience, Johnson said the time nonetheless for a new face is now.
“Sometimes I think elected officials just stay in a position too long,” he said, another reason for promoting the news publicly through social media.
Elected first in 2013 after an appointed term began in 2012, Johnson won two elections, was sworn in as Mayor in 2018, and oversaw significant change in the city’s financial status during that span.
Those years were met with many highs, he said, including the decision to switch the city government format to include a city manager. The time spent on that decision, extensive interviews and conversations among council are among the most noteworthy of his two full terms.
“I look back at our city then and several of our departments were in the red. Financially things were pretty tough,” he said, the possibility the city could rid itself this year from the state’s financial watch in place for more than eight to nine years. “Together with the team we have with council, we rolled up our sleeves, we got busy, and tried our best to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars and we have been able to successfully things around in our city financially.”
“Our city right now is very strong, and all our departments are in the black,” Johnson said.
The post received over 50 comments as of print time, mostly from community members showing gratitude for his service. Fellow council members also chimed-in as the Times reached out for reaction.
“Serving on council- especially as mayor- is a commitment of a lot of time and energy,” said 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon in a released statement. “Kevin has served his community well for many years. He has small kids that he wants to spend time with. I get it. But I will miss serving with him.”
“Mayor Johnson is a good Mayor and servant to our community, it has been an honor to be serving with him,” added 4th Ward Councilwoman Lyvette Mosley. “I will hate to see him go. He will be hard to replace.”
While no longer planning on holding the official title of a public servant, Johnson plans on supporting the next 3rd Ward Councilperson and continuing to be active in the community.
That next representative, Johnson said needs to both have ideas and be willing to hear out those ideas with which he or she may not agree.
“When you are serving as a council representative, you are serving even those that didn’t vote for you and didn’t support,” he said. “You’re still their councilperson, so you have to have a willingness to work with all sides and all people.”
“We all bring something to the table,” Johnson said of council, quoting a phrase used by Gordon on many occasions. “Even though we may have differing political views or disagree on items, we still work together to keep our city running just like a fine-tuned motor.”
With the primaries set for May 4, three of the city’s six wards will have elections. Terms for the first, third, and fifth wards are set to expire at the end of the year, while the remaining ones will continue through the end of 2023.
Petitions can be picked up at the Scioto County Board of Elections’ office on the first floor of the county courthouse. Eligible members, according to the City Charter, must have lived in the ward for at least six months and be a city resident for at least three years.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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