Johnson proud of accomplishments during four years as Taylorsville mayor
Feb 01, 2018 02:55AM
● By Carl Fauver
Larry Johnson says a fond farewell during his final Taylorsville City Council meeting as mayor. (Carl Fauver/Journals)
Taylorsville Mayor Larry Johnson is proud of everything he and other city leaders accomplished during his four years in the position. And although he had hoped for a second term (“to finish what I started”), he says he is ready for whatever his next challenge might be.
“I still have time to serve in a city or state job,” Johnson, 66, said. “I’m too active to retire now. I will continue on and see what’s next.”
Johnson has been a Taylorsville resident for more than 60 years. His wife, Debra, has been by his side 45 of those years, and the couple raised four children, who now have 11 grandchildren, ages 3 to 16.
“Three of my four children also live in Taylorsville, so we have family around all the time,” he added.
In all, three of Johnson’s Taylorsville elections, the challenger beat the incumbent. That was good news for him in 2009 — when he defeated an incumbent councilman — and again in 2013, when he upended incumbent Mayor Jerry Rechtenbach. But in November — running as an incumbent for the first time himself — Johnson lost to Councilwoman Kristie Overson.
“Sure, I was disappointed, but I know the city is in better shape than it was four years ago when I took office,” he said. “We’ve grown our economic base and made many city improvements, without having to raise taxes.”
Johnson said the Taylorsville economy was still working its way out of the nationwide recession back in 2014, and a lot had to be done quickly.
“I’ve enjoyed working with (Taylorsville Economic Development Director) Wayne Harper and the council to get more businesses to locate here,” he said. “We have added more than 200 business licenses to the city since I have been mayor, and our sales tax revenue has grown by $668,000. All those new businesses keep people shopping and eating out here at home, which is great.”
Johnson is particularly proud of the transformation that has occurred on both sides of 5400 South, west of Redwood Road.
“With Legacy Plaza 54 on one side (on the northwest corner of 5400 South) and the Crossroads of Taylorsville on the other (southwest corner), we have seen a lot of new businesses come in. I’m particularly excited to have the new Regal theaters, which are about the nicest movie theaters in the state.”
Johnson said he and Harper were able to find new buyers for both of those large land parcels by attending trade conventions, particularly an annual event in Las Vegas.
“Besides giving residents more shopping and eating out options, the new businesses have also taken a burden off taxpayers, which was another of my top goals,” he added.
Johnson said another top accomplishment has been to get the county to select Taylorsville to locate its new Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center.
“That required a lot of negotiating on our (Taylorsville City’s) part,” Johnson said. “It came down to (Taylorsville) and Murray. I think our location proved to be better, and the new center will be great for residents.”
Ground will be broken on the new facility this year, with the grand opening in 2020. The $39 million Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center will be built on the open acreage immediately southeast of Taylorsville City Hall.
Johnson also points to expansion of the Taylorsville Senior Center, new walls along 2700 West and more than $600,000 in Taylorsville park improvements as major accomplishments over the past four years.
“I knew when I first got started we would have to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” he said. “We have a great city administration, and everyone worked hard. I’m proud of what we accomplished.”
Soon after being elected mayor, Johnson sold J&J Tire, his business of 34 years. “I was able to continue running it while on the city council, since those are part-time jobs,” Johnson said. “But once I was elected mayor — and my son said he didn’t want to take over the business — I had to sell.”
But as he leaves office, Johnson says he doesn’t regret that decision.
“Elected officials need to work for the people and not for their own gain,” he concluded. “My goals were always to spend taxpayer money wisely and prioritize effectively.”
Taylorsville City Manager John Taylor is one of the people who has enjoyed working with Johnson.
“He is a people’s mayor,” Taylor said. “He cares very deeply for the people of Taylorsville. And it has been great to have someone with his business sense serving the city.”
Among the things Johnson cleared out of the mayor’s office was his 1982 photo of him playing a round of golf with the legendary Arnold Palmer.
“That was a thrill, and I also got a golf ball and scorecard signed by (Palmer),” he said. “Now I’ll have more time to golf with my boys, do yardwork and do things with the grandkids.”
But Johnson also promises to remain active in Taylorsville as well.