FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. —Forsyth County’s new County Manager Eric Johnson had a busy first week at his job that began Sept. 5.
His inaugural meeting with the Board of Commissioners Sept. 7 lasted until close to midnight and included an incident where he accidentally summoned a deputy sheriff by hitting a panic button next to the console for an overhead projector. A few days later, he had to get on a plane back to his native Florida to prepare his home there for Hurricane Irma.
But that didn’t deter Johnson who’s been in county government for more than 30 years.
Johnson previously served as a national instructor to state and local government professionals from hundreds of jurisdictions on public finance with a heavy focus on budgeting, performance measurement and service level evaluation. He evaluated more than 250 local government budgets against best practices and taught graduate level public administration courses.
Before he came to Forsyth County, he was the assistant county administrator for Hillsborough County, Fla., since 2015. Although that county is much larger than Forsyth, he said they struggled with some of the same issues that Forsyth is seeing, like population boom, traffic, transportation and infrastructure.
“I’ve been watching the Atlanta area for a long time,” Johnson said. “I went to high school in Huntsville, Alabama, and that’s similar to this area. They have Old South values and new technology. The nature of the population will change as more people shuttle into this area. That’s the same thing I saw in Huntsville.”
As the assistant county administrator in Hillsborough, Johnson said he learned how to work with all parts of the government. He said his focus on county budgets will help him assess projects both visible to the public and behind the scenes.
“Most people in city or county government have just their perspective of what the organization does,” Johnson said. “There are only a few people who have no blinders on, and they primarily deal with the budget. We make sure the debt is being paid off, water flows from taps and the Georgia Department of Transportation gets their money for projects.”
He is looking forward to solving problems with the public on any issues they have.
“At the local level, you have that interest, involvement and sometimes anger from the public,” Johnson said. “You’re much closer to the people and issues. Everything we do needs to be measured against if it’s compatible to what we want the community to look like in 20 years. My job is to make sure the county is successful.”