After Friday’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Shelby County Republican executive director Don Johnson will be stepping down from his post. He will be working for Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn – an important and exciting new job.
While we are all happy for Don, it’s a big loss for Shelby GOP. His knowledge of Memphis politics is encyclopedic, or perhaps Wikipedic in today’s lingo. He knows voting patterns in just about every ward in the 200-odd precincts in the city. You could probably name a street and Don would be able to tell you all about it.
It’s quite an achievement for someone who is just 29. Most of us are just familiar with the politics of our lifespan, but even with only 29 years, Don knows about past Memphis and national politics as well. During the recent Irish elections (you remember them, don’t you? and who was running?), Don even followed that and interpreted for us what it all meant. His knowledge is certainly world wide.
But aside from all that, Don is one of the nicest persons I have ever met. It’s not a forced niceness either. In politics you have to grit your teeth often to be nice to people who are annoying, but Don’s is a natural niceness. Several times on facebook he has expressed a little frustration, but others have asked what he was doing at headquarters at 10 p.m. anyhow, answering the phones with questions from the public that would make the rest of us tear our hair out.
He is always cordial. No matter what silly question I’ve had, he answers politely and respectfully. At training sessions full of older people like myself who have trouble understanding the world of laptops and i phones, Don has been patient with us beyond the call of duty. A sense of humor helps him and puts us all at ease.
We’re all familiar with his sympathetic “well, bless your heart” and it is always appreciated. He keeps up with all of us. When a member departs this life, Don lets everyone know in Trunkline, sharing an anecdote that
His optimism – in a county whose task for a Republican is often akin to Sisyphus – is catching. Many in his position would have winced at the possibility of victory in the August 5 elections, but Don helped us sally through to a sweep.
Don will come to a meeting to help you even though he’d probably rather go home at the end of the day. Some might treat it as a 9-5 job, except for election time; Don ignores those boundaries and gives his all year round.
He has come to our Midtown Republican Club meetings several times just to cheer us on. The last one Don walked in to spontaneous applause. He looked surprised and baffled. He shouldn’t have. Don has won the hearts of the whole county.