Johnson is engaged in the community

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Candidate profiles: Revitalizing business is one of his goals

By Arin McKenna

Kenneth Johnson has spent 40 years of his life in Los Alamos. He was a child here when Los Alamos was still a closed city.

He moved away, came back for his graduate and post doctorate work, left to reside in Switzerland for six years, then returned and never left.

“I’ve seen the community change tremendously over several decades and kind of remember some of the old days being better - but memory is kind,” Johnson said.

When asked to clarify, Johnson recalled more diverse retail options and three movie theaters. “In the small business sense it was more dynamic,” Johnson said. “It’s always been a nice, reasonably safe community to live in, and those things haven’t changed. But it is annoying that for so many things, if you want to buy something, you have to leave the Hill.”

Serving two terms on the school board wetted Johnson’s interest in public service.

“At times it’s extremely rewarding, like when you feel you’ve really accomplished something that makes the schools a better place or the community a better place,” Johnson said.

Johnson also feels the school board stint helped him learn something about the workings of government.

“In the realm of schools, there are things thou shalt not do because of the law. You think when you first come in that you might be able–in certain things–to change the world, but of course you can’t.”

Johnson is one of those taking advantage of the Voluntary Separation Program at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His early work was as a physicist, but a few years ago, he pursued an MBA from the University of New Mexico’s (UNM)

Anderson School of Management and has been working in group management in recent years. He believes his management training and experience would prove useful on the council.

Other community contributions include serving as a volunteer coach and teaching mathematics at UNM Los Alamos for more than 20 years.

“I’m engaged in the community,” Johnson said. “I also think I bring a viewpoint that’s accepting of diversity of any kind, but specifically diversity of opinions,” Johnson said.

Johnson would like to better engage residents who have a distrust of the council. “Rightly or wrongly, many members of the community feel that they learn too late about decisions,” Johnson said.

“I would also like to continue to find ways to actively support the schools, legally,” Johnson said.

Diversifying the county’s economic base is another thing Johnson will focus on if elected. “I believe Los Alamos could become a vacation destination, as opposed to a day’s excursion from Santa Fe,” Johnson said.

“Our bus service is a good step in that direction. The improvements to the downtown appearance are a good step. And more things like that that would draw tourists here, who would stay overnight, spend their money here. And that might lead to an evening in the town where there are actually some restaurants open a little later.”

The economic situation obviously weighs heavily on Johnson.

“We seemed to have dwindled, shrunk over time in what we offer the citizens of the town. I’d like to find ways to reverse that trend.”