By Joel Hall
For the last two and a half years, William E. Johnson, III, has served as the city manager of College Park. On Dec. 31, however, Johnson will leave the city to become the deputy county administrator of Chesterfield County, Virginia.
Jim Smith, director of College Park Power, will take over as interim city manager until a replacement is found.
Johnson, 43, a native of Richmond, who completed high school, college, and got his Masters in Business Administration at schools in Virginia, said that taking the position just outside Richmond, would allow him to be closer to his family, as well as help him grow as an administrator.
The position would catapult him from managing a 10-square-mile city with a population of 20,000 to a 226-square-mile county with a population of 300,000.
Johnson will start working for Chesterfield County on Jan. 7.
"At one point, I said I would never be going back to Virginia," said Johnson. "You never know what opportunities you will be presented with. It's an opportunity to get back home. That's where most of my family is."
Working in Virginia is not new territory for Johnson, however. The Hampton University alumni served as the deputy city manager of Richmond for five and a half years, and also served for a brief stint as deputy county administrator of King George County, Virginia, before coming to College Park.
While Johnson described moving back to Virginia as "an excellent opportunity for my career," he is confident about what he has been able to accomplish during his time with the city of College Park. Johnson said he was instrumental in securing a partnership with several developing firms to create a $250 million, mixed-used "Aerotropolis," which would include several new hotels and aviation-oriented businesses in the vicinity of the Georgia International Convention Center.
"We have been able to expand the vision of College Park," said Johnson. "Not only have we been able to do something for the city of College Park, but we have been able to do something that will have an impact on the metro Atlanta area as far as economic development and job creation."
College Park Mayor Jack Longino said he was hoping to have Johnson around for longer than two and a half years, but he understood the need to return to one's origins. He described Johnson as a helpful leader, who knew how to make things happen.
"He did a fine job ... I hate to see him go, but I understand," said Longino. "He's a manager that reaches down to help others and that is the kind of manager I like to see. He knew how to work with others and he knew how to get things done.
"I didn't find any qualities when he was here that I wasn't impressed with," said Longino.
Johnson said he was leaving the city in good hands. "If you come to College Park, it's a clean city ... it's a safe city," said Johnson. "It was financially sound when I arrived, and it will be financially sound when I exit, and that attests to the community."