Glenn Johnson reflects on 20 years as mayor
Glenn Johnson spent 20 years in his position as Pullman’s Mayor before retiring this year. Johnson first moved to Pullman over 40 years ago and has since served in numerous positions within the community and at Washington State University. He sat down with NWPB’s Rachel Sun to talk about his time as mayor and plans for the future.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited from its original version for brevity and clarity.
SUN: “I’m here with Glenn Johnson, former Pullman mayor. Glenn, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I was hoping you could go back a little bit and tell me about when you first came to Pullman. What drew you here and what’s kept you here for, what, 40 plus years now?”
JOHNSON: “I guess 44 right now, at this time. Well, first of all, WSU was the attraction. We were in Sacramento at the time and I was looking. I was managing a couple of radio stations down there and that was sort of the time and point where we said, you know, both of us were raised in small communities. And maybe this is the time we get out of a large city and then we saw an opening here to manage the radio stations here. And so, since I was managing stations in Sacramento, I said, OK, we’ll apply for that and then I was notified that you didn’t qualify for that. However, we have a teaching position, would you be interested in that? And so, I said yes. But was it paid? So we determined as a family that I was gonna give up two thirds of my income, and come up here and teach, and my wife was going to have to go back to work. But we wanted to do it for family and, yeah, the first three years around Pullman, and the challenges we had, was just like about every other professor, when they come here, as an assistant professor, especially in liberal arts, you’re always looking at it, okay. But in the long run, it was one of the best decisions we ever made. And that’s what sort of drove us here in the first place is for family.”
SUN: “So, when you look back on your tenure as mayor, and I know, it’s a lot to look back on, I was curious if there’s specific things that stand out to you, in terms of both things you’re especially proud of that you were able to accomplish and some of your greatest challenges that you had.”
JOHNSON: “In 20 years as Mayor, there’s a lot of different challenges you have. One thing that I wanted to make sure was very clear right from the beginning. When I first ran in 2003, I wanted to make sure the public knew that this is a nonpartisan position. That’s one thing, is just trying to make sure that people knew that when you’re in city politics, you’re trying to do the best you can for your city, not what your party is, not what your party group or caucus wants to do. But what is good for your city. One of the biggest accomplishments that we had where we had just a ton of naysayers. ‘Oh, no, that will never happen,’ is the airport. The Pullman Moscow Regional Airport is a great example of cooperation for the whole region. There’s no way that the city of Pullman or the city of Moscow could do it independently. We were all working together. We went from about 80 cancellations a year, and this past year, we had four. That’s one of the biggest accomplishments.”
SUN: “I was wondering if you had any advice that you could give to the new mayor, Francis Benjamin, that you would be able to share here?”
JONHSON: “One of the biggest things I said, okay, one of the things you have to do is that even though you may know what’s going on, be open to whatever is said, because as soon as you say I know, then you immediately shut off communications. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people and maybe about 80% in, ‘Oh!’ They came in with something that they had not said before, and that was something that was really germane to the argument of something. ‘Oh, this is something we can work on.’”
SUN: “What made you decide now is the time to step back?”
JOHNSON: “Right now, I wanted to make sure that we had the airport as far along as we could. But this was the right time with a good, ‘OK now, I’m not going to do another four years.’ This is enough. So, you’ve just felt it. Yeah. Plus, continuing on with Cougar announcing for football and men’s basketball and still enjoy doing that.”
SUN: “Good, I’m sure everyone will be glad to still have you there. OK, well, is there anything else I haven’t asked you wanted to talk about?”
JOHNSON: “I think we’ve covered it.”
SUN: “All right. Great. Well, thanks, Glenn.”
JOHNSON: “OK, thank you.”