Joe Johnson- Editor – Mayor – Judge – Chief Justice – Career Manager
Joe Johnson has worn many hats during his career. During college he was a student leader and got involved campus politics. He was also the editor of the student news paper while studying journalism. He went on to be the editor of two different weekly’s the Hartshorne Sun and the states oldest the Indian Journal. He ran and won five different terms as Eufaula’s full time Mayor. Johnson served as the Municipal Judge for six years. He was appointed to the Mvskoke Creek nation supreme court by three different chiefs and was selected by the courts other Justices to be the Chief Justice for ten years. Currently he runs a large career consulting firm as Executive Vice President in Texas.
Years ago, Joe Johnson was covering the city council while working for the Eufaula Indian Journal. He didn’t like some of the things he saw, and being young and brash, he thought he could do a better job.
He campaigned hard in 1975 for the fulltime city managerial position, and when the final tally was in, 24-year-old Joe Johnson had become the youngest mayor in the state and held the job continuously longer than any mayor in Eufaula’s history.
He held the position for over 24 years. The consensus from Eufaula’s citizens, his peers in the city management positions and government professionals is that Joe Johnson has been a strong and effective leader… bringing stability, industrial growth and cultural enrichment to this community along the shore of lake Eufaula.
As some measure o the respect her earned from his peers in city management, Johnson was elected president of the Oklahoma Municipal League – despite the fact that he served less that the normal tenure on the board of directors before being chosen for the post. He was the first President to be elected two continuing terms in the history of the 75-year-old organization. Johnson was also the only small town mayor to ever receive the George Nigh Mayor of the Year Awards.
Johnson is not unduly modest, but while proud of his achievements he passes around accolades to citizens, city employees, and city council members. “Our accomplishments are because of the good help we have.”
The life-long Eufaula area resident grew up in the Stidham area and finished high school at Crowder in 1968. He then went on to Eastern State College at Wilburton, where he studied journalism – something of a family tradition going back to his great-great uncle, Alexander Posey, a noted Creek statesman who once edited the Eufaula Indian Journal. Johnson then furthered his education at the University of Oklahoma studying pre-law.
There were many accomplishments under Johnson’s administration. A 7,500 square foot building to house the Department of Human Services was completed in 1983. Located near the Eufaula Hospital, the new Facility is leased from the City by the State of Oklahoma. A thirty-three bed hospital was completed soon after Mayor Johnson took office and was sold after eight years of City ownership at a profit of $1 million. The proceeds were used to retire the debt for the City’s matching share of the grant for the water plant and to match a CDBG grant, which funded the purchase and renovation of a 7,500 square foot community center. A fire station was purchased in 1983 with sales tax revenue.
A new 6,000 square foot library was completed in 1986 with Mayor Johnson spearheading the effort to obtain $150,000 in state and private grants. The total cost was $500,000. The balance was made up of donations from local citizens. A new 5,000 square foot building for the McIntosh County Health Department was completed in 1987 and allowed the Department to occupy a new building without any capital outlay.
In 1986, Mayor Johnson also directed the razing of the original City Hall and remodeling of the former community center into offices for the new City Hall and a completely remodeled jail facility. The original community center was built in 1941 by the National Youth Administration.
In the past ten years over four hundred houses have been renovated. These primarily elderly citizens who cannot do the work required and could not afford to hire contractors to do the repairs.
Mayor Johnson also oversees a summer recreation program which offers baseball, swimming, swimming lessons, softball, volleyball and tennis. Mayor Johnson developed the program with the help of local merchants. One of Mayor Johnson’s favorite triumphs was the completion of the new lake access road connection No. 9 highway and Lakeshore Drive.
Mayor Johnson was responsible for developing a 43 acre Certified Industrial Park. He has also been a driving force behind the Eufaula Main Street Program. This economic revitalization effort resulted in $1.6 million in private reinvestment in the downtown. the listing of most of the downtown are on the National Register of Historic Places, and public improvements of $500,000. Another byproduct of the Main Street Program is the Transportation System, two 25-passenger buses that are operated by the city of Eufaula, making it the only small city in the state to operate a public operation.
Mayor Johnson’s achievements go beyond the city limits of Eufaula. He served as secretary for the Eastern Oklahoma Development District for three years and then as chairman for another three years and served on the Board of Directors for several years. Mayor Johnson was appointed by the Governor and served for six years on the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement Board. He was selected to Who’s Who in the South and Outstanding Young Men of America.
In 1989 Mayor Johnson was appointed to the Creek Supreme Court for a six year term and was reconfirmed for another six years in June of 1993. All told he served 16 years. He also served as Chief Justice and was the Executive First Vice President of the National Indian Court Judges Association.
When asked in 1983, Why do you serve?, Johnson replied, “It involves the opportunity to serve in a unique capacity, to face constantly changing challenges, the new problems and new issues which arise almost daily in municipal government give it a certain quality which other public officials can never experience.”
Other achievements for Johnson include, being a member of the Oklahoma Conference of Mayors, a member of the Oklahoma Conference of Regional Councils, Past Secretary/Treasurer of the McIntosh County Democratic Central Committee, served on the State Higher Education Alumni of ESC, served on the development council of Connors State College, served on the Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse PAC Board, serving on the Board of Directors for Literacy Council, and served on the OK Travel Industry Association.
Johnson has two children, Kristi an attorney in Norman. Her husband is the running back coach at OU, Cale Gundy. Joseph Blake, Johnson’s son is the assistant debate coach at the University of Oklahoma. Blake was also the number one debater in the nation in 2007. Johnson has two grandchildren KC and Caitlin Gundy.
- Morris, Connie, Ed. Eufaula: A Pictorial History 1883-1993. Marceline, MO: Heritage House Publishing, 1993. Print.