Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson Reflects on First Year on the Job

Dave Moore, Staff Writer

In the year since Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson took office, the city has been:

      • walloped by an EF3 tornado;
      • hit by the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the economy; and
      • rocked by civil unrest, brought about by the death of George Floyd and new attention brought to other African American run-ins with law enforcement.

Johnson reflected on his role as mayor during those pivotal developments in Dallas history at Leadership Dallas Alumni Association’s Breakfast with the Mayor virtual event on June 19.

“I am simultaneously trying to manage an economic crisis, with a public health crisis, and… layer on top of this, protests, that relate to racial inequity,” said Johnson, who graduated from the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Leadership Dallas Class of 2006. “It fills my day. I’ll tell you right now. It fills my day.”

The annual event, whose presenting sponsor was Goldman Sachs and silver sponsor was Oncor, was moderated by DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey. Questions covered a broad swath of territory, from the importance of marking Juneteenth, the federal rejection of requests to fund repairs of the 2019 tornado that ripped North Dallas, to his role in helping fight COVID-19.

In addressing his fellow LD alumnae, Johnson said his experience in Leadership Dallas gave him a knowledge of how things work behind the scenes, and inspired him to serve the community, both as a state legislator, and as mayor.

Regarding the protests, Johnson said he’s glad they’re happening. Johnson noted that the protests, and cases of vandalism and violence were done by two separate parties.

“These protests that we’re seeing – which were largely peaceful in Dallas – are really about trying to make changes to our police department, to make policing work the way it is intended to work,” he said. “In the African-American community for a longtime, people have not felt that the police are there to do the same job in our communities that they are doing in other communities. I think the view of the police has been mixed in the African-American community. They’re there to protect and serve in some ways, but some ways… it’s been a tense relationship, and it resulted in some cases like George Floyd.”

Johnson said it’s important that those protests translate into tangible changes in policing, and that’s his job as mayor.

In response to Petroskey’s question on what his biggest lesson has been in his first year as mayor, Johnson said he’s learned to lead through adversity.

“You would have to be pretty obtuse to not define it as a year of real challenge and crisis management,” Johnson said adding that his tenure started off with the tornado strike, and then the Amber Guyger jury verdict.

Johnson said he’s trusted his instincts, and leaned on the leadership style that brought him where he is.

“My leadership style is… something that that I feel like is what’s needed at this time, which is to be a steadying force,” he said. “Not to contribute to instability, and not contribute to people’s anxiety.”

View more videos of the event on our YouTube channel.