The City Council unanimously approved Johnson’s contract Tuesday night. He expects to take the helm at City Hall no later than Sept. 30.
“I am very excited about it being Anniston. That is the God’s honest truth,” he said by phone after the vote. “The opportunities there are mind-boggling.”
Johnson — currently the city manager of the Savannah suburb of Garden City, Ga. — has been courted by other local governments in Kansas, Missouri, Georgia and North Carolina. But, he said, none of them had what Anniston does.
The City Council voted to offer Johnson the position last Wednesday after he spent the morning touring the city and meeting city officials, staff, and members of the public. This weekend, Johnson, 41, visited Anniston with his wife and two young children to get a feel of the community.
“The fabric of that community is very strong,” he said. “There was a lot of pride, deep-seated and long-tenured pride … It’s contagious to some degree.”
Mayor Vaughn Stewart called the council’s approval of Johnson’s contract “a watershed moment in the modern history of Anniston.”
“I think it will help change the landscape of Anniston and its government in the future,” he said. “It’s a turning point.”
Councilman David Reddick called Johnson’s selection a step in the right direction. “I’m excited to have someone with the kind of energy and passion that we need to move the city forward … and I look forward to being able to work together,” he said.
The contract that the City Council approved establishes Johnson’s base salary at $150,000 annually — the top of the advertised salary range. Johnson will also get a one-time $700 signing bonus once he begins his tenure at City Hall. Going forward, Johnson’s salary will automatically adjust with any cost of living increase offered to other city employees.
If the City Council were to fire Johnson, he is entitled to nine months of severance pay, unless the termination is a result of “conviction of a felony or an act of moral turpitude.”
Per the contract, the city will also pay Johnson $850 per month to be used toward incidental business expenses, to include the costs of owning and operating a vehicle for business purposes and the costs of maintaining memberships in civic, professional, social or other clubs or organizations.
Stewart, who worked with City Attorney Bruce Downey to negotiate the contract with Johnson, said they included the provision for memberships “because we feel like he ought to be a part of the community.”
Johnson said that from what he’s seen thus far, the Anniston community is ready for change, which is encouraging to him as a city manager.
“I will tell you,” he said, “if you don’t have a community that wants to improve, it doesn’t matter what City Hall tries to do, it won’t take.”
Johnson knows that the changes residents, community leaders and the City Council want to see are going to take a lot of work, but he said he’s not afraid of working hard and has the drive to get it done.
“I think there is a good base to come in,” he said, “and really be able to provide that one last link to some changes that we will all look back on and say ‘Wow, we did it.’”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.