By Joel Hall
Gov. Sonny Perdue has confirmed that State Rep. Celeste Johnson (D-Jonesboro) officially tendered her resignation from her House District 75 seat this week.
On Friday, Perdue issued a writ of election and said a special election will take place on Nov. 3 to fill the seat.
Chris Schrimpf, a spokesperson for Perdue, said Johnson's resignation letter was dated Aug. 11, and that her resignation would be effective Aug. 31.
"To resign, all you have to do is send a letter to the governor and sign it," Schrimpf said. "She said that she was resigning to concentrate on her family, and would be returning to Florida to assist her elderly parents. In the letter, she says 'I will continue to serve my constituents until that time.'"
According to Whitney Halterman, a spokesperson for the Georgia Secretary of State, that office has not yet set a qualifying date for the special election. Halterman said the cost of qualifying for any seat in the House of Representatives, or the State Senate "is generally $400."
Attempts to reach Johnson by cell phone and office phone on Thursday and Friday were unsuccessful. On Friday, Johnson's cell phone went directly to voice mail.
According the Georgia General Assembly's web site, Johnson, whose district represents parts of Clayton and Fayette counties, was sworn into office on Jan. 8, 2007. She is presently a member of the Children and Youth, Economic Development and Tourism, and Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment committees.
Georgia's Win List, a political action committee for Democratic women in Georgia, noted Johnson as a native of Miami, Fla., with a bachelor's degree in music education from Florida State University.
Starting in February of 2004, Johnson worked for Clayton County Public Schools as a school improvement specialist for the Fine Arts Magnet School at Mt. Zion High School in Jonesboro. According to School District Spokesperson Charles White, she resigned from her school-system position on June 30.
"She's been associated with the Fine Arts Magnet School from the beginning, and the school is in it's third year," White said. "Based on the information that we have, part of the resignation process is that they answer certain questions. When asked if she was planning to continue in education, she said, 'yes.' When asked where, she said, 'Florida,' but that's about as exact as we can get."
The news of Johnson's resignation came as a surprise to members of the Clayton County Legislative Delegation, some of whom were not notified of her resignation.
"As the chairman of the delegation, I have not received a notification letter confirming that she has resigned her seat," said State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood) on Thursday. "I have not received anything personally from her ... like everyone else, I have heard the rumors, but I cannot confirm [them]."
State Rep. Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro) said he was at the Capitol as a member of a subcommittee, confirming the new Georgia Department of Transportation planning director Tuesday, when he learned of Johnson's resignation.
"I was there that day [Tuesday]," Baker said. "The governor's office told me that she had resigned, and an aide in the speaker's office called me to confirm she had turned in her letter of resignation."
Baker said he was not shocked by Johnson's departure, but "it did catch me off guard." He said Johnson had talked about returning to her home in Florida, but thought the move would be a year or two away.
According to Baker, Johnson informed him that she had accepted a position with a school board in Florida.
"I was disappointed Celeste had to leave," Baker said. "I hate to see her leave. She will be missed."