Floyd Johnson is focused.
It was his first day on the job Monday, and the city government veteran bounced from appointment to appointment, even conducting an interview on the fly with Channel 4 as he headed into the elevator and onto another meeting.
That is because Johnson is no stranger to city government. Since 1976 — with a brief, three-year hiatus in between to work in the private sector — Johnson has been working for local government. He served as city manager for the City of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., from 1998 to 2003, and city manager for the City of Richmond, Calif., from 1994 to 1998. Before moving to Port Arthur, Johnson was the director of the Northwest District for the Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency.
“I think I’ve always wanted to get back to general management by being a city or county manager, and Port Arthur presented such an opportunity,” he said.
Johnson knows what it is like to squeeze potential out of a city as if it were a swollen sponge, and that was what attracted him to this job. When he looks around Port Arthur, he sees potential.
“It’s very much a city with a great deal of potential, a great deal of history,” he said. “But I think if we really turn our attention to some of the other assets of the City of Port Arthur, I think we will find that we have an even more attractive city than what might appear at first blush.”
Specifically, Johnson sees potential in Pleasure Island and the kind of destination it could become. Hailing from South Florida, Johnson knows what a tourist destination could do for a city, and he wants to capitalize on that knowledge here. But he does not want to morph Port Arthur into another Fort Lauderdale.
“It’s an asset that hasn’t been fully realized, and I think we need to certainly explore that in terms of what it could mean if it were properly developed as a destination point and as, perhaps, a further point for housing,” he said.
Among those assets are the oil refineries. Johnson expects to see the completion of expansion plans for some of the refineries in the next few years, which he said would improve local employment opportunities and increase the area’s population. As the city manager in Richmond, Johnson interacted with the sole refinery within the city limits, which is operated by Chevron Corp.
“I think the sum total of my experiences — both in government and in the private sector — all help me to, hopefully, help the City of Port Arthur,” he said. “I’m not going to say that I’ve seen it all, but I have encountered many of the challenges and opportunities that seem to avail themselves right here in Port Arthur.”
But what motivates Johnson to do this job and do it every day is helping people.
“The realization that you can see the greater good being accomplished — to me, that’s the most important thing, that’s what keeps me going,” he said. “It’s not that everything is going to work perfectly. But you can see where there are some opportunities where you’re helping people who rely on that safety net that government provides, or you can see lives being bettered because of some things that we’ve done — be it cleaning up the environment, be it providing employment, be it making sure that housing is safe and sanitary, be it making sure young people have a safe, decent place to recreate and grow.”
Floyd Johnson is focused.
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