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End of an era
Seminole honors Jimmy Johnson
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Photo by BOB McCLURE
Jimmy Johnson speaks briefly to those in attendance at his Jan. 27 reception.
SEMINOLE – City officials rolled out the red carpet Jan. 27 at the Seminole Recreation Center to honor the longtime face of the city.

A crowd of about 200 attended a two-hour reception for former Mayor Jimmy Johnson, who resigned from office in early November due to health reasons.

Johnson, 70, wept at the podium as he spoke briefly about his late daughter Heather who he wished could have been in attendance. But on a brighter note, he received a number of accolades from city and county leaders on hand.

They included current Mayor Leslie Waters, City Councilors Thomas Barnhorn, Chris Burke, John Counts, Bob Matthews and Jim Quinn; City Manager Frank Edmunds, City Attorney John Elias, State Rep. Larry Ahern, Clerk of the Court Ken Burke, Pinellas County commissioners Janet Long, John Morroni and Norm Roche; former Pinellas Park Mayor Bill Mischler, Gulfport Mayor Mike Yates and Belleair Bluffs Commissioner Jack Nazario.

Johnson served for nearly 10 years on the City Council as a councilor, interim mayor and mayor for two terms.

In September 2000, he was named executive director of the Greater Seminole Chamber of Commerce, a position he held for over 12 years.

Residents first knew Johnson, who has lived in Seminole since 1980, as the manager of the Seminole Kmart store where he worked for a number of years. After ending a 33-year run with Kmart, he turned his attention to public life and truly became the face of Seminole at most public events.

Johnson was forced to resign as mayor Nov. 2 due to health issues. A few weeks earlier he underwent esophagus surgery due to an inability to swallow well. Although the procedure was laparoscopic, it was extremely hard on Johnson and zapped him of his strength.

In March 2008, he had a single lung transplant that has required Johnson to be on three anti-rejection drugs since. He makes regular trips to Tampa for monitoring of his medications.

Johnson’s fight with lung disease began in the spring of 2007 when he was experiencing a cough that wouldn’t go away. After he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, he underwent a number of tests and nearly was declared a noncandidate for the surgery when a tumor was discovered in his intestinal tract. However, the tumor was found to be benign and Johnson was given the green light for the transplant.

A native of Fayetteville, N.C., the former mayor earned a degree in personnel management from the University of South Florida and served four years in the U.S. Air Force as a cryptologist, before embarking on his career with Kmart that took him to 13 cities.

Among the honors he received at the reception was a county proclamation from Morroni declaring Jan. 27 as Jimmy Johnson Day in Pinellas County.

Morroni called Johnson “one of my most favorite people I’ve had an opportunity to work with.”

Waters referred to Johnson’s tenure as “a great run” before she and the other City Council members presented him with a sizeable plaque, recognizing his years of service to the city.
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