Mayor Greg Stanton is out, and Mayor Thelda Williams is in charge. At a special Phoenix City Council meeting on Monday, Williams was unanimously elected by the other council members to serve as mayor pro tempore until Phoenix voters elect a new mayor in November. Stanton resigned on May 29 to run for Congress in District 9. … Continued
Like many others, the Johnson family found its way to Phoenix Arizona looking for a better life. What brought my grandparents here more than 50 years ago, is the same thing that brings people here today and what encourages them to stay – opportunity. Regardless of who you are or what motivated you to come here, there is one constant in Phoenix: with hard work and determination, this is a city that enables you to prosper.
My grandmother came here from the hills of West Virginia and began to make her way by picking cabbage in Laveen, Arizona. My grandfather and his brother hitchhiked across the United States as young boys to leave the dark coal mines, looking for a better life. The common denominator between them was their determination to make life better and doing it here in Phoenix. That’s been a common theme for my entire family.
I am a second-generation Phoenician, not a common thing in America’s fifth largest city. My wife Lauren and I are raising three children who represent a third generation of Johnsons in Phoenix. That long history and continuity gives me a profound appreciation for the city of Phoenix and a keen family perspective on how it has evolved. Every day, I am grateful to have deep roots in this community of ours.
My family has built its life here working in construction. My grandfather and father started off hanging drywall. My brother and I spent our summers working for my dad and grandfather for $.50 an hour as young boys; scrapping houses, stocking drywall, and picking up left-behind nails on a long trail of job sites. Construction is a line of work that tests you, especially on the long hot days that are so common here in the Valley. That test is only overcome by hard work and succeeding gives you a sense of accomplishment.
That commitment to hard work extended to my grades in school and to the importance of education. In our family, if you weren’t doing one, you needed to be doing the other. Both of my parents worked, but they were unwavering in their commitment to making education a priority for my brother and me.
One of our family’s great honors came when my father was elected Mayor of the City of Phoenix. I can remember taking the public bus to City Hall after school every day because my dad wanted me to do my homework in his office where he could make sure it was getting done. I knew that he valued his family and our education. Being Mayor was important, but being a father who continued to instill the values his father had taught him was even more important.
My goal is to live up to his example.
After graduating high school, I went on to Occidental College in Los Angeles and majored in Economics. It was a great experience becoming an Oxy Tiger, but living in Los Angeles helped me develop a true appreciation for my home here in Phoenix. So, I came back home and met and married my best friend Lauren. We started a family together and today, with our three kids, we are raising them less than a mile away from the Sunnyslope home where I grew up.
That home was a small 800 square foot two bedroom house. In those years, Sunnyslope was a tough area, but also a place where hardworking families could afford their first home. Today, that opportunity has vanished for too many hardworking folks and families here in Phoenix. I watched as many people I grew up with and worked with had no choice but to move out to Buckeye, Avondale or Verrado in order to find a home they could afford.
Watching that phenomenon helped me decide to become a homebuilder. Construction and the trades were my roots after all – a natural step. I wanted to make certain that the Phoenix I knew and grew up in could still be a place with safe neighborhoods where people could raise a family and call home. I want to provide opportunity for folks in all trades and professions, not only to work here, but to fully enjoy living here as well.
And so, in 2005, I decided to start my own homebuilding construction company, focused on creating affordable opportunities in the City of Phoenix, knowing that we needed to do something to create entry level housing not so different than the home I grew up in. It seemed like a great idea – until the great recession hit in 2008. It was one of the hardest times in my life, but it was also the best learning experience I have ever had. Lauren and I spent morning, noon and night going back to the toil of my construction roots and grinding away to keep a roof over our family’s head and food on the table.
I don’t have a big company. I don’t have the assets that large homebuilders or public corporations have. But I discovered a secret that helped me be successful. I learned the key to being competitive: recognizing and supporting my company’s greatest assets — my employees, my subcontractors, and all of the hardworking people that work for me … and them. I learned that if you believe in people and invest in their ability to make a difference, they usually will live up to that belief tenfold. With my team, we succeed or fail together.
I am in awe of the hardworking folks who come to work every day, who sweat and toil to provide a craftsman like product. These are the folks who have built Phoenix from the quiet little town it used to be when my grandparents came here for a chance at a better life, to the big city it is today that has the capacity to offer resources and opportunity to so many.
These are the people who inspire me to serve. These are the folks that don’t often think about government or the services and infrastructure that can enable them to go to work and raise their families in peace and safety. And that’s a big part of why I am running for Phoenix City Council, to help these hardworking individuals and families find opportunity here in Phoenix.
We need leadership in Phoenix that dares us to be even better and believes that we need every part of this wonderfully diverse city to do it. We are better when we work together and recognize, in spite of our differences, that we all contribute to the whole.
It’s what I learned from my grandparents, parents, as a boy with my friends in a hardscrabble Sunnyslope neighborhood, my co-workers and employees as a business owner, and from the people I meet every day in a city that has the opportunity to be the envy of the nation.
It’s going to take hard work and determination by all of us and the ability to pull together as one to make it work. That’s a familiar way of life for the Johnson Family. And that’s exactly what I’ll do as your Phoenix City Councilmember.