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Johnson ending council career after 20 years

Coun. Rebecca Johnson will draw the curtain on a nearly two-decade stint on Thunder Bay's city council after the current term.

THUNDER BAY – Coun. Rebecca Johnson, a fixture on Thunder Bay’s city council for a generation, has announced she will not seek another term in 2022, ending a nearly 20-year run as an at-large councillor.

Johnson was first elected in 2003, after serving as president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce from 1990 to 2000.

Johnson, 81, said her decision not to run again was informed by some health challenges – she suffered a serious injury in 2019 and has had a pacemaker installed – at an announcement at Hillcrest Park Friday morning.

“Whatever I do, I do 100 per cent – well, probably 110,” she said, estimating she spends 40 to 60 hours a week on council commitments. “I can’t continue to do this anymore… So for my health, it’s time.”

“I also looked at the fact that we need new ideas, new people around the table – the youth that need to be around that governance table to make decisions for our community.”

Johnson also said she’s looking forward to catching up on lost time with family, and pursuing “new opportunities and challenges,” promising she’ll remain involved.

That will include hosting a new half-hour program called Age Friendly Thunder Bay on Shaw TV, an older adults conversation group through the 55 Plus Centre, and continuing to work with Diversity Thunder Bay.

She also wants to help mentor emerging leaders, expressing concern that few people have stepped up so far to run in the 2022 municipal election. The number of declared candidates is at about half of where it was at the same point in 2018, she said.

Looking back over a two-decade career on council, she said she’s proud of pushing the city to do more long-term planning, including the development of strategies on poverty and addiction.

She also pointed to efforts in the early 2000s to recognize racism as a real problem in the city.

“That took a lot of years – everything takes time when you’re working with government,” she said.

She said she had no regrets, and no major priorities she was still hoping to accomplish on council, which she said had essentially entered the “lame duck” phase leading up to the election.

“I look back and say would I change anything? No, I don’t think I would,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to create change in this community, and that is significant.”


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