With the passing of Milton City Council Member Bart Taylor, the council has felt the loss both physically and spiritually. As the city council process must move on, Milton resident Susan Johnson has temporarily filled Taylor’s council seat number two. The Milton-Edgewood Signal sat down with the longtime events committee member to find out what she brings to the council.
MES: Let’s start with a little bit of background of yourself. I know a little about your work in Milton, but going back before that?
Johnson: I’m originally from northern Virginia, born in Washington D.C. I lived my whole life in different areas. At 21 I went to Vietnam as a civilian after working at the Pentagon as a secretary and it changed my life. I was civilian not soldier. From there I got married, moved around – Vegas, Indiana. I got a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from Indiana University. I have a Masters in Higher Education from George Mason University in Virginia.
I moved (to Milton in 2003) across country with two dogs. One quote I like to use is, “If the pilgrims had landed in the Puget Sound they would have never crossed the mountain,” because it is a beautiful place to be. I worked and then I started getting involved with the Milton Events Committee. I volunteered the first year, four years ago, and I’ve been doing the parade since then. And last year I had to step up to be the chair, so I did that and did the parade as well.
MES: So that leads us to the Milton City Council…
Johnson: Bart Taylor had been talking to me and said, “Susan, have you ever considered it?”A couple people have asked me and I said yeah, when I retire I’m looking at doing something. I have an administration degree, I did politics in Indiana, and I formed a national women’s political caucus in Indiana in the Bloomington area. I have a love for it. Bart knew he wasn’t well. He said “Let’s get started,” so he started giving me information, and we really thought we had a little bit more time. So they approached and I said I was interested.
MES: When does your term end?
Johnson: I have to run in November then should I win, I’ll run again in two years and then if I should be elected I’ll take the next four-year term. I’m filling the position until December, running in November. If someone runs and I lose then I’m out, but I feel so honored that Bart trusted me enough to say, “You know, I want to pass on to you information because I think you can do a good job on the city council. You can be fair and open.” He was a special person.
MES: What do you bring to the city council?
Johnson: I think I have experience. I’ve worked for other cities in different capacities. I have the ability to listen and research and an open mind. My goal is to be a voice of the people. I’m a profound believer in open government and disclosure. One of the quotes I love is from Bart, and it’s “Our city government must demonstrate fiscal responsibility.” Planning, long range planning, has to be done in a way that is within constraints of what you’re fiscally capable to do without being on the backs of the citizens and more taxes.
MES: What do you hope to accomplish with your time on the council?
Johnson: I want to hone in on what’s important for the city of Milton, and one thing is the neighborhood. I think it’s how can we balance economic development, which is needed, but also keep and cherish what Milton people love, and that’s the neighborhood, and it’s a very difficult balance. So I’m hoping that my voice will be there to help with that. If you’re afraid to talk in front of the council, you can email, you can call, and there will be a voice. My belief is you can always ask the question if you’re never afraid of no, because you get a lot of yeses; and that’s open government.
I will always volunteer for Milton Days because I really want to be like Bart. I can’t replace Bart but he was mentor and I want to be like Bart – I want to be a female version of Bart, that’s what I want to be. He was a continual learner. He would go to meetings he would listen to people and if I could aspire to anything that’s the truthfulness of being a councilperson of being who they are, and you know who they are.
I lost a daughter to suicide at 27, so that’s another thing – suicide prevention. I follow the state stuff and I report back to the council. We have to have that in our mind if something comes up at the city council – suicide prevention – because this area has a high rate of it. And I think she’s driven me to do things with that loss.
I’ve gone into service this way because when I was in Vietnam I worked as a secretary and I tried to volunteer in the hospitals and I couldn’t, and I admired Bart because he was an EMT and things like that. I always felt I failed because of that, so I now say I have to give a service somehow so if it’s representing people, if it’s suicide prevention, if it’s neighborhood to neighborhood, if it’s door to door, it’s helping people say, “There’s a connection.” You got a connection and I will always smile at you.