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William Johnson returns as College Park city manager

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

After 16 months of working for Chesterfield County, Va., William E. Johnson, III, has returned as City Manager of College Park.

Johnson, who served as city manager from 2005-2007, came back to work for the city this week.

From Jan. 7, 2008, until July 2 of this year, he served as Deputy County Administrator for Management Services for Chesterfield County, just outside Richmond, Va.

During that time, no one was given the title of College Park City Manager. Jim Smith, the city's power director, assumed the duties of the job in the interim, according to College Park officials.

Johnson returned to his former position on Monday, and Mayor Jack Longino said the city is glad to see him return. "We're very happy after 16 months to have William Johnson back to lead this city," he said. "He doesn't have a learning curve, because he's very familiar with this city. He's hit the ground running."

Longino said that during Johnson's first run as city manager, he was instrumental in several hotel, parks-and-recreation, and economic-development projects. The mayor credited Johnson as a "very friendly, well-rounded person," who "knows how to talk to people."

"He knows how to get people to the table," Longino said. "He did us a good job when he was here the last time, and I don't expect anything different this time."

Don Kappel, director of public affairs for Chesterfield County, Va., said Johnson announced his resignation on June 12. At the time, Kappel said Johnson issued the following statement:

"I have enjoyed my time here in Chesterfield and will always value the working relationships we developed over the past 15 months. Chesterfield is truly a first-choice community with a first-class leadership team that I have been proud to be a part of. But the fact that College Park never replaced me and I have always struggled with not completing many of the exciting projects I began, I believe it is a sign that I am supposed to be there."

Johnson, a Richmond, Va. native, and Hampton University alumnus, said he took the position in Virginia to be closer to family, but ultimately decided there was unfinished work to be done in College Park.

"Sometimes, you feel like home is where you are always supposed to go back to," he said. "I did, but I missed the metro-Atlanta area. I missed the warmness and friendliness of College Park employees. I also missed the various projects I was working on."

He said during his first tenure as College Park's city manager, the city began work on its Gateway Center, a 25-acre, $250 million project near the Georgia International Convention Center. The project will eventually include a 400-room Marriott Hotel, a 150-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott, and an office building, Johnson said.

He added that, while working as the city manager, College Park improved its employee-customer-service training and created a youth golf program.

According to Johnson, the revitalization of Old National Highway, Main Street, and Virginia Avenue will be the city's next immediate objectives. He said that he hopes to redevelop the "old Target site and the Kroger site" on Old National Highway.

"We want some mixed-used development," he said. "That's really what we need down here to create some jobs for the city. I don't want to focus on what we did then. It's more about what we are trying to do now."