A longtime Southaven native who has spent a career in law enforcement as well as the private sector is seeking to become alderman for Southaven's Ward 2 in the Feb. 13 special election.
Johnny Johnson, 59, said he has a love for the city which he has watched grow and develop over the past four decades-plus.
"I've been living in Southaven for 55 years — even before we were a city," said Johnson, in an interview with the DeSoto Times-Tribune.
"We lived in the original neighborhood that Kemmons Wilson built," said Johnson of his original childhood home at 1456 Staunton Drive in Southaven's older section.
Johnson and his family have lived in their home on West Stateline Road for the past 32 years.
As a young adult, Johnson went to work for the Southaven Police Deaprtment as one of the department's first animal control officers.
"The first commendation I received was for pulling a white German Shepherd off a four-year-old girl," Johnson said, adding that he was employed by the City of Southaven when he was just 21.
"The first arrest I ever made was for animal cruelty," Johnson said, adding that the guilty party paid a fine and was taken to jail.
In addition to being an animal control officer for nine months, Johnson became one of the original members of the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue Squad.
Johnson would go on to serve in the ranks of the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department for 12 years, the oldest person to graduate in his class from the training academy.
Johnson served as the longtime search and rescue diver for the Sheriff's Department's dive team and rose to the rank of lieutenant.
A successful businessman, Johnson owns and operates Johnson Machine Works in Southaven. He designs and builds aircraft accessories. He holds a patent in hydrodynamics, after working on a design for more than eight years. Johnson also has more than 500 intellectual property agreements.
Johnson said the city needs to be run like a successful business. He wants to prevent the city from bearing the unnecessary cost of having to tear down houses which have been abandoned or fallen into disrepair.
"We have a rental property crisis in the City of Southaven," Johnson said. "We've had to tear down five homes," adding the demolition was borne by the city in its fight against blight. People rent houses until they fall down and have to be torn down. That will destroy a city. Look at Detroit. I've got a plan to fix blight."
Johnson said in addition to fighting blight, he wants to fight crime.
"I'm very proactive for policing," Johnson said. "There are a lot of no-cost things that are there to take advantage of. I would like for the dispatcher to send out BOLOs or (Be On the Lookout) to ward captains of Neighborhood Watch. Hundreds of eyes are better than one. It costs nothing and is extremely effective."
Johnson said to save lives, he would like to see NARCAN, the anti-opioid antidote to heroin or painkiller overdose, be distributed at the patrol level. "I had a close friend who died due to opioids. I would like to see a follow up to what we are doing," Johnson said.
Johnson is chagrined that the City of Southaven currently doesn't fund the House of Grace abused women's shelter.
"I believe if the city can spend $80,000 on a tennis coach, they (city board) can spend a small stipend on a vital service," Johnson said. "We have to get our priorities in order."
Johnson and his wife Teresa Johnson, who works as bookkeeper for the DeSoto Circuit Clerk, have two children: son Johnny Fletcher, a medic/Staff Sgt. for the 155th Infantry in the Army National Guard, and daughter Jessie Brook Defore, the first female dog handler for the Sheriff's Department.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.