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Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson resigns as chamber executive director

SEMINOLE — Mayor Jimmy Johnson resigned last week as executive director of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce, a position he has held for the past 11 years.

The decision, he said Thursday, was fueled by many things, from a feeling that "it's time" to health issues.

His health, he said, is "not the whole reason. It's part of the reason."

"I think I've done what I needed to do," Johnson said. "It's time to let someone else (take charge). It's time to venture into other things."

Other things include travel and plans to reactivate his real estate license. He has no plans to give up his job as Seminole's mayor, a position he has held since March 2007.

"I'll continue being mayor as long as they elect me," Johnson said. "I love being mayor."

It is unclear when Johnson's last day will be. He left that up to the chamber board, which will meet today.

"This is all new to us. … We're kind of caught off guard," chamber president Mike McQuilkin said. "Jimmy's a major, major part of this community and always has been. He'll just be missed. Hopefully, he'll have an active role still."

Johnson, 68, underwent a single-lung transplant in March 2008 after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive scarring of the lungs with no cure. Later that year, he underwent a second major surgery so doctors could remove polyps from his colon. They were benign.

The medication that is supposed to prevent Johnson's body from rejecting the donated lung has attacked his kidneys. He's still okay, but he has to be monitored. More worrisome, he said, is the fact that "my antirejection medication is not doing well. It's quit working."

The doctors, he said, are going to switch medications.

Johnson, a native of Fayetteville, N.C., moved to Florida after graduating from high school. He worked for a short time in his uncle's gas station in Sanford then moved to the Tampa Bay area to go to the University of South Florida. After graduation, he joined the Air Force and worked as a cryptologist.

After leaving the Air Force, he went to work for Kmart and was transferred around the Southeast.

"I swore once I retired from Kmart, I wasn't moving anymore," he said.

After retiring, he settled in unincorporated Pinellas. Seminole annexed his condominium complex in 2001, the year after he became executive director of the chamber. He was elected to the City Council in 2003 and was in his second term as a council member when he was appointed mayor in late 2006 when Dottie Reeder resigned to run for the state House.

Johnson said a lot has been accomplished while he has been chamber executive director, but he sees a lot left to be done. He said he's especially bothered by the area's rampant unemployment. "Not everything is good in Seminole," Johnson said. "Until we find a job for all those people, it is not good."

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson resigns as chamber executive director 04/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 1:26pm]

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