SEMINOLE — Mayor Jimmy Johnson abruptly resigned Friday, citing health reasons.
"I have decided to retire and resign my position as mayor effective today," Johnson wrote in a four-paragraph letter. "I have experienced significant health issues over the past several years. It is due to my health that I have decided to retire now."
Vice Mayor Leslie Waters will serve as interim mayor until the March election. She had already announced plans to run for the seat. The Seminole City Council has 30 days to appoint someone to fill Waters' seat. It is unclear if her replacement will serve out her term, which ends in 2015, or if the seat will be up for grabs in March.
"I wish Mayor Johnson the best as he devotes time to his health issues," Waters said. "Jimmy Johnson through the years, as a manager of Kmart, Seminole Chamber president, city councilor and mayor, has been a great advocate of Seminole. I personally want to thank him for his dedication and service to the citizens of Seminole."
Although Johnson's resignation was unexpected, it was not surprising to those who had watched him struggle in recent months. Although always cheerful and smiling, his lack of endurance was clear and he had begun delegating presentations to other council members.
Johnson, 69, is a native of Fayetteville, N.C., who moved to the area in 1980 to manage the Kmart at Seminole Mall. In 1982, he was awarded the Seminole chamber's Merit Award and the chamber's Boss of the Year award. In 1985, he was named Mr. Seminole, the chamber's highest honor given to a resident who has volunteered many hours for chamber and city events. He became a resident in 2000, when his condominium was annexed into the city.
After retiring from KMart, he became executive director of the Seminole Chamber, a job he held until last year. He was elected to City Council in 2003 and appointed interim mayor in 2006 to fill out the term of Dottie Reeder who resigned to run for the state House. He was elected mayor in March 2007.
He was diagnosed in 2007 with pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal lung condition. The next year, he received a lung transplant and underwent abdominal surgery. Last month, surgeons operated on his esophagus.