Sidney Johnson never thought he would get into politics.
After managing his own business in Dallas for 10 years, he returned home to Essex County to care for his mother. In 2008, he declined to run for Essex County’s Northern Dist. Supervisor despite being approached by current supervisor Angelo “Jack” S. Stevens about pursuing the position.
But five years later, with Stevens now choosing not to run again Johnson is seeking to honor his mentor’s longtime service through becoming the new voice for Northern District voters.
As to why he changed his mind, Johnson said it was not his doing.
“By getting involved, it is God letting me know, this is where I want you to be,” said Johnson. “That’s about the only way I can say that.”
In sharing his goals, Johnson placed emphasis on hearing what his constituents had to say.
“The thing that…God has stressed on me so strongly is to listen,” said Johnson. “Listen to the folks, hear their concerns and do what I can to resolve those concerns.
“My agenda may not be their agenda, but if I listen, I’ll find out what their agenda is,” he continued. “I might not like what I hear. I might not like what
I need to do. But I’ve got the Lord behind me. I don’t have a choice.”
Johnson added that when people work together, “things happen,” which he noted was the case with the golf cart ordinance that was recently passed by the Essex board of supervisors.
“I was right impressed with how that was handled,” remarked Johnson. “There was a group of citizens who wanted this and there were some citizens that didn’t. The board met all the requirements of what it needed to protect…the citizen base in terms of legal ramifications, plus giving the community what they needed in order to make them comfortable in their particular area.”
Johnson said the key for him was to create an environment where people would willingly work together for a common cause while “exercising the utmost respect” for one another.
“We don’t have to agree, but don’t be disagreeable,” said Johnson. “It’s fine to disagree because ideas, new ideas, more creative ideas and better ways come about. As long as we’re exercising love and respect for each other, then…it’s a win-win for everybody involved.”
Born in Caroline County, Johnson and his family moved to Essex at an early age. Johnson said he graduated from Essex County High School in the 1960s as both the President and Salutatorian of his graduating class.
Johnson added that he majored in Business Administration at Norfolk State University and became a commissioned officer of the United States Marine Corps after graduating from Officer Candidates School in Quantico.
Among his assignments as a Maine Corps officer was a one-year deployment in Okinawa, Japan, where he was rated the #1 officer in his battalion, according to Johnson.
“I was thoroughly blessed. There were three junior officers to me that wanted to go to Vietnam,” said Johnson. “They went to Vietnam. I stayed in Okinawa, and I feel real good about the opportunity to serve my country but not to go to Vietnam.”
Following active duty, Johnson returned to Virginia where he was accepted into a management training program with the Norfolk-based Giant Open Air supermarket chain.
Johnson said the program launched a career in grocery retail for Johnson that spanned 35 years and had him managing stores with up to 500 personnel per location and sales volume of up to $1 million per week.
He added that his career included management roles with Giant Open Air Markets, Albertsons LLC and the San Antonio-based H-E-B Grocery Company.
In reflecting on how his knowledge and business background could benefit him in a role on the board of supervisors, Johnson said, “Being in the retail industry, you are afforded an opportunity to deal with a magnitude of people and…problems, and by doing that, there is a degree of accountability and responsibility, not only to yourself, but to the folks that you manage, and that is critical.
“You know the pain of your employees… and when you’ve been there, you have to make a global decision,” said Johnson. “You can’t just make a decision where it’s good for one and the others have to fend for themselves. It’s got to be a comprehensive decision.”
Johnson said he appreciated Stevens’ mentorship and support and drew attention to the retiring supervisor’s “hard work and his efforts over the 24 years” in Essex County.
Johnson also said he has thoroughly enjoyed visiting all of the local churches in the Northern District, especially the “warm welcome” he said he has received from each church since he declared his candidacy for supervisor.
“We have a really exciting county,” said Johnson. “It’s rich in culture and I feel as though the real, true beauty we have here is not being personified as beautiful when it really is.”
Elections for supervisors in Essex County will take place Tuesday, Nov. 5.