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Owen Chad “Cracker” Johnson has been named to the Levy County Board of Commissioners District 1 seat, nine months after Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Tony Parker for being indicted on federal charges.
He will take the oath of office at the start of the commission's regular meeting at 9 a.n. Tuesday in the commission meeting room at the Levy County Courthouse on Court Street in Bronson. County Judge Joseph Smith will administer the oath.
It should be a lively event as Smith, known for being a Florida State University Seminole fan, will be swearing in the 1993 University of Florida graduate who saind in his first interview: "I have a nice orange tie that should go good with the blue suit I will wear."
Johnson, who works for a company that sells ID tags for cattle, said he was in Okechobee visiting a customer when he received word he would be appointed and the announcement would be made.
"I've got a lot of homework to do between now and Tuesday," Johnson said late Wednesday. He said he had a long list of congratulatory calls to return.
One piece of work he needs to move fast on is the county's upcoming budget. The commission is in the midst of workshops and it is due to set tentative millage and assessments in Tuesday's meeting.
"I want to get our hands wrapped around this, making sure what I would provide the major necessities like law enforcement, medical and fire," he said, liusting his priorities for any budget he considers.
"We also choose to live in a rural county with lower taxes and lower cost of living and if you think you need major medical, then living where we live may not be for you. it's going to cost less but we're not going to have everything that they've got in Gainesville and Ocala."
As a family man and businessman he has an overriding economic goal for the county.
"And I want to work toward getting jobs for our people so our kids don't have to move away," he said.
At the same time, he will work for a balance of interests.
"I want for them (citizens) to know that I understand people and I understand the issues, I've got a wife and four children that are going to school here. I know what its like to try to raise a family here," Johnson said. "I want us to maintain our community semblence, and manage our growth so we can maintain a community and I think that's important."
Crist’s office made the announcement Wednesday afternoon after spending most of the day calling the other applicants.
Johnson describes himself as a fiscal conservative.
Johnson, 38, is married to Angela Quincey. The couple has four children, Tyler, Quin, Bryden and Maddilyn.
County Coordinator Fred Moody said he was happy with the appointment because it means he has a full commission. Moody also said he had a fat book of information for Johnson similar to one he prepared for Marsha Drew, when her interim appointment to fill suspended Commissioner W.S. "Sammy" Yearty was announced in March.
The commission has been short of members since Commissioners W.S. “Sammy” Yearty and Robert Anthony “Tony” Parker, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of bribery and conspiracy.
Crist immediately suspended the two after the Oct. 20 indictments were unsealed on Nov. 5, one day after Parker won re-election in a close race against businessman Abraham Blitch.
Blitch had also applied for appointment to Parker’s seat and had the support of the county Republican Executive Committee. A rally in support of Blitch was to be held on Aug. 8, but has been cancelled.
In his application, Johnson said, based on his experience as a business owner, he is concerned with growth, jobs and services in the county. Johnson said he will “have the concerns of the citizens at heart and want to see our county strive to be a place where my children would wish to raise their families.”
Johnson also mentioned he has experience managing budgets for businesses, civic groups and philanthropies.
The newly appointed commissioner is a territory manager for Destron Fearing of St. Paul, Minn. Johnson is also the owner and manager of Stockman Solutions LLC and animal health manager for Walco of Mayo.
Johnson is currently a member of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, the Florida Board of Realtors and a board member for the Florida Auctioneer Association.
Earlier this year he was named 2009 Bid Calling Champion Auctioneer by the Florida chapters of the Future Farmers of America.
Johnson is well known throughout the tri-county area for his auctioneering activity, donating his talents to charitable groups’ fund-raising events.
Johnson changed his voter registration from Democrat to Republican on June 23, according to a spokeswoman for the Supervisor of Elections office.
That was one day after he filled out a questionnaire for gubernatorial appointments and left his party affiliation blank on the form.
"I was asked what party I was and we had been looking at switching parties in the past, in past elections," Johnson said. "I've always been extremely conservative. I never felt I needed to be a hardline Republican and with the hardline Democrats in the party I felt they changed where I wanted to go."
Sterling Ivey, press spokesman for the governor, said Johnson was not asked to change his party affiliation by the governor or the governor’s Appointments Office.
“We don’t request party affiliation on the application,” Ivey said. “The governor has a long record of appointing both Republicans and Democrats.”
The appointment is an interim appointment, Ivey said. If Parker resigns or is convicted in the upcoming criminal trial the appointment becomes effective until the next general election.
Johnson has been a candidate for county commissioner in the past, losing in the 2006 Democratic primary against current Commission Chair Nancy Bell for the District 2 seat. Johnson received 2,033 votes or 32.56 percent to Bell’s 2,145 votes or 34.36 percent. Bell represents Chiefland on the commission.
Johnson lists two addresses on his application for the position: 13550 N. Bronson Ave., Trenton, is listed as his residence, since April 2005; Prior to that he lists 7650 NW 50th Street, Chiefland as his address from November 2001 to April 2005.
He also listed a post office box address at the Chiefland Post Office.
Johnson listed a Williston address as his business address.
His references for the application were Frank Quincey, the owner of the North Bronson Avenue property where Johnson resides; Brad Etheridge, president of Thomas Cattle Buying Services, Inc.; and Bo Hobby, immediate past president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, a nutritional consultant with Thomas Cattle and a manager of Double H Investigative Agency LLC and Florida Prime, LLC.