Fitz Johnson is a Republican candidate for the District 2 seat on the Cobb County Board of Commissioners. The seat is currently held by Republican Commissioner Bob Ott, who is retiring when his term ends.
The Courier interviewed Johnson by telephone.
Asked to tell a little about his background, he said, “I graduated from the Citadel, which is a military college in South Carolina.”
“I earned a master’s degree from Troy University and earned my Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law,” he said.
“I’m married we have four grown children, all college graduates that are out of the house. And we have three grandbabies, and expecting the fourth,” Johnson said.
“I spent the first part of my career in the United States military, in the army,” he said. “I spent 21 years in the Army. I was a Medical Service Corps officer.”
He said his father was Brigadier General Walter F. Johnson, and his son is a captain in the Army.
“Keeping it all in the family, all the public service and leadership get passed down through the ages,” he said.
Johnson told the Courier he particularly wanted to highlight his active membership in the Cumberland Community Church, where he has served leadership roles, including a term as Executive Director from 2015-2018.
Career after the Army
“When I came out of the military, we started a family business called Eagle Group International,” he said. “It’s a defense contracting firm, which we built from zero employees to over 1700 employees in an 11 year timeframe.”
“I was the owner and CEO of that company and led that company for the last five years of its existence, when we sold the company. We’re very, very proud to have 1700 employees in 36 states and five foreign countries,” he said.
Johnson said he considered himself blessed to move in many different areas of public service in addition to his business life.
“I sat on the Board of Trustees for Kennesaw State University, where I worked with the Foundation Board of Trustees to build what is now the Fifth Third Bank Stadium,” he said.
“I owned the Atlanta Beat Women’s Professional Soccer team, and we played our games in that stadium,” he said. “And at the time that was the largest women’s soccer stadium, not just in the country, but in the world.”
WellStar Board of Trustees
“I also serve on the WellStar Board of Trustees,” Johnson said. “I’ve served on the Board of Trustees for the last 10 years … for the healthcare system, and it is the largest system in the State of Georgia.”
Johnson spoke about the efforts of the doctors, nurses and PAs and other staff in the WellStar Health System during the COVID-19 pandemic
“It takes the entire 25,000 team members to make that engine go, and they are just doing a super job. I’ve checked in with them … taking care of patients and and getting them in and out … it’s just been heroic,” he said. “We owe a sincere debt of gratitude for our frontline medical personnel and public safety.”
Johnson said his company handled the anthrax program for the Department of Defense, and that gave him insights into the role of leadership for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Following the CDC guidelines, following the governor’s guidelines, is of utmost importance in controlling this COVID-19,” he said. “I’ve seen it, and I can parallel it with when they had the anthrax back in the day, where we tracked all the anthrax for every soldier in the department.”
Why Fitz Johnson is running for office
Asked why he decided to run for the Cobb BOC at this point, he said the decision followed a conversation with Cobb former District Attorney and current GBI Director Vic Reynolds.
“I was having a conversation with him and he told me that the gang activity in Cobb county, to him, was out of control,” Johnson said. “He said every high school in the county has some form of gang activity.”
“And that got me to thinking, gosh, what can I do? How can I help? So me and my wife, we prayed about it. And then I talked to some of my key friends and advisors, and said, ‘You know, I really think it would be a great idea’.”
“When Bob (Ott) decided to resign at the end his term, that position became available to me and I said I think that is where I want to fit in,” Johnson said. “I want to be able to keep Cobb County heading in a positive direction, keeping our taxes the lowest in the region, and having the best public safety officers in the region.”
“I want to have the best public safety in the world, right here in Cobb County,” he said.
He said mobility was another of his issues.
“I don’t want us to throw our hands up and say ‘traffic is what it is’ Because it can get better,” he said. “I want to work to make sure that the mobility that we have in the county decreases your trip time and gives you more time to do the things you’d love to do rather than sit in your car, sitting in traffic.”
Land use and zoning
Land use and zoning issues take up a large amount of the schedule of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners. The Courier asked Johnson if he has a particular approach or philosophy on zoning issues.
“We have to make sure when it comes the land use zoning that the citizens are first,” he said. “We have to understand that’s the whole reason I want to be here and serve our community and serve the citizens.”
“According to John Pederson, (the) head of zoning … the future land use map is our guide,” said Johnson.
He said that although the future land use map is the county’s guide, over time there might be circumstances where a different use is proposed.
“And that’s where I think we have to collaborate with the community and all parties involved to make sure that if we’re going to change something on the future land use map, that we’re making a coherent, smart decision in coordination with the community that is involved,” he said.
“We have different parts of the county that are more dense than others,” he said. “This is a very large district and goes all the way up from northeast Cobb, down through Cumberland … and Smyrna and piece of Mableton.”
“So there are a bunch of different uses, but we have to make sure that we are involving the community with all the decisions that we make on land use issues.”
The Courier asked Johnson if he had a position on the Sterigenics facility off Plant Atkinson Road near Smyrna.
The Sterigenics plant became a focus of community concern in Smyrna and surrounding areas after an article jointly published by Georgia Health News and WebMD reported that three census tracts, two in the Smyrna area and one in Covington, had unacceptable levels of cancer risk by EPA standards, due to elevated amounts of ethylene oxide in the air.
Johnson said, “I’ve been following it. And as you probably know, the judge just approved in order for Sterigenics to stay open until the case goes through the court.”
“The first thing, first and foremost, is the health of our citizens,” he said. “We have to make sure that they are operating safely.”
He said he lives near the Sterigenics facility.
“I want to make sure that that facility is safe. For the health and welfare of all of our citizens,” he said.
“I understand you know, what with COVID-19 and their mission and what they have to do over there,” he said. “But we can’t let the health of one be compromised trying to fix another.”
“Public safety is a no compromise issue for me,” he said.
“I served my country for 21 years proudly,” he said. “These guys and gals put their lives on the line every day to protect us.
“We owe them the respect of a great work environment, healthy pay, healthy benefits.”
“I applaud the commissioners for the step and grade increase. But that’s just the beginning,” he said. “I’m fully on board of making sure that we deal with what they call the compression issue for our mid-level officers.”
“And some of our senior officers need to now get their pay adjusted,” he said. “But we want to make sure that we get that adjusted so that we can continue to have the best public safety officers anywhere.”
“People love to live in a safe environment,” he said. “I love to live in a safe environment.”
“Those officers out there deserve the respect and deserve everything they earn,” said Johnson. “And I want to make sure that we are competitive so we don’t lose officers to our surrounding police departments.”
Transportation and Public Transit
The Courier asked Johnson his position on transportation issues and public transit.
“If we were to use public transit, it would just be a part of the solution to help our mobility,” he said. “Public transit is extremely expensive.”
“And I think we need to look to 21st century technology, look to the future using technology to increase the mobility around the county and reduce our trip costs.”
“Public transit is extremely expensive. We are doing things now with turn lanes. We are doing things with roundabouts,” he said.
Johnson said that reconfiguring intersections, adjusting traffic signals along with the other changes he mention were the way to “get the most bang for our buck.”
Asked if there were any other issues that were important to him that we had not yet covered Johnson said there are two things he wanted to close on.
First, he said that he wanted to continue to keep Cobb’s taxes the lowest in the region.
“And you do that by being a fiscal conservative, such as myself,” he said.
“I’ve owned several companies, from small budgets to hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “And I’ve been in charge of that and understand how to not only make a budget, but to actually stick to the budget and set priorities.”
“If we set our priorities and we set our budget and we stick to it, that’s how we continue to have the lowest taxes in the region,” he said.
“The second thing I want to reiterate is our public safety,” he said.
“I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it: we have to continue to hire the best and train them and make sure that we are paying them appropriately,” he said. “(With) good benefits and a work environment where they’re comfortable and enjoy their work.”
“Cobb County has a reputation for having some of the finest public safety officers anywhere,” he said. “But we we’ve been losing them an alarming rate until we started this step and grade increase that they’ve been working on and has kept some folks around.”
“And I’ve talked to police officers,” he said. “They tell me they love working for Cobb County.”
“We’ve got to get ourselves on par with our neighbors,” he said. “And I think that’s fair.”
The Courier asked Johnson if he had a pitch he’d like to make to voters.
“I am an experienced leader. I spent 21 years in the Army, and another 25 years running businesses,” he said.
“I’ve lived in this county for over 20 years,” said Johnson. “I raised our kids here, our kids went to school here.”
“We love this county. I love this county.” he said. “I’m retired. I’m blessed to be retired. And I have the time to make sure that this is my number one priority: running District 2,”
“I want to earn your vote. I want to talk to the people. I love working with people. I’m a consensus builder. I’m a collaborator, and I am a leader who makes decisions, and I make those decisions in the best interests of the citizens of Cobb County,” he said.
“And that is why I believe I’m the best candidate to be the commissioner for District 2,” he said.
For more information on Fitz Johnson’s campaign visit https://friendsforfitz.com/index.html.
The primary election is scheduled for June 9.