Power Politician – Otis Johson
South's second annual Power Issue went straight to the top of Savannah's power structure, profiling then-mayor Otis Johnson.
Featured in Faces of the South: The Trilogy Edition now on newsstands. Click here to order your copy of Faces today.
Depending on who you ask, Mayor Otis Johnson is either the most powerful, activist mayor in recent Savannah history, or a glorified cheerleader with a lot of big ideas. Ask the mayor, and he might tell you he's a little bit of both.
"I have always been a very outspoken person, and just bold," the mayor explains, sitting in his office in late May. "I've neber been one that just sought approval. I'm concerned about people liking me and approving of what I do, but I'm not opposed to taaking unpopular positions or calling people on the carpet when necessary, and I've always done that."
Mayor Johnson gained a reputation as a leader who forms strong opinions and fights for them. "My upbringing just taught me to say what you believe, and to be able to back it up with some information or data to substantiate your position, and to hold that position until you get information or data that shows that there's a better way," Johnson reveals.
If it was divine intervention that made Johnson mayor, then that same guiding hand may also have saved him from his heart attack (experienced at the 2006 National Conference of Black Mayors in Memphis, TN). But whether it was fate or strength of will, one thing is certain – Johnson is dedicated to his job, the city and the quest that he has undertaken to improve both.
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