Johnson prepares for County Council service in January

Former school board member learning the ropes

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comNovember 20, 2012 

— Michael Johnson’s public service to date has been all about education. As he transitions from the Fort Mill School Board to York County Council, it still will be.

Johnson isn’t bringing a laundry list of changes when he begins serving Dist. 1 in January. Instead he’ll look to settle in, finding out what the critical issues are before taking to tackling them.

“I actually want to work my way in,” said the Tega Cay resident. “That’s something I learned from my two terms on the school board. You’ve got to learn what you don’t know.”

He plans to be an “active member from the very start,” but for now is taking time to meet with current Council members and public officials in Fort Mill and Tega Cay. Already he’s learned that current seat holder David Bowman, who didn’t seek re-election, gets “tons of calls” about issues that either aren’t within his district or aren’t up for decision at the Council level.

The Fort Mill area is served by three seats on Council. The other two currently are held by Rock Hill residents, a point not lost on Johnson.

“I’m the only Councilman who goes to sleep above the river, and that’s a big deal,” he said, referring to the fast-growing portion of the county north of the Catawba.

“There is some added pressure there.”

Bowman has been working with Johnson for several months, with both knowing that this transition would come. The current councilman “kept him in the loop and up-to-date” on several issues that will be challenges, like the future of Knights Stadium and the Morningstar Tower, and changes to the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study.

Bowman also readied Johnson for the calls and emails throughout the Fort Mill area, even ones covered by other Council members.

“Fort Mill has got a challenge here in the next few years,” Bowman said of local representation, “but that’ll work itself out in time.”

Part of the education process for Johnson is keeping residents informed of which Council member represents them, and which issues fall under Council consideration and not another board or county staff position. There’s also state versus county roads, or city/town police versus the county sheriff’s office.

The concerns Johnson faced on the school board were “extremely personal” as it related to people’s children, and he expects similar pleas moving forward.

Johnson vows work to make sure that his entire area, including his district, “isn’t forgotten.”

“It’s the same thing,” he said. “People want help.”

The school board and county have similar, large budgets and lengthy employee rolls, Johnsons said. He’s “pretty confident” that he’ll be able to work well with the entire Council, and particularly Councilmen Curwood Chappell and Chad Williams who represent parts of Fort Mill. Just as soon as Johnson gets his feet under him.

“The key is to go and listen, study and to be ready to engage when the time comes,” he said.

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