By Eric Heubusch
On January 5, 1972, Jim Johnson was hired as a laborer at what was then called City Service, but now known as Mosaic. After over 43 years of service, including countless hours spent in the community both on and off the clock, Johnson has retired from his position as public affairs coordinator.
Born in Dayton, Tenn., Johnson’s father packed up the car in 1957 and headed down Hwy. 41 in search of warm weather and a job. He found both in Ruskin, settling his family onto a farm.
Johnson attended Ruskin Elementary and graduated from East Bay High School. After being hired as a laborer, he sought work in the service and maintenance departments, eventually applying for a journeyman apprentice program where he learned skills involving sheet metal, welding, and industrial mechanics; tools he would use for the next 20 years at the company.
“Whatever the plant needed, if something broke down, we could go in and fix it,” Johnson said.
Johnson stayed busy even after his shift was over. He was a volunteer firefighter in Riverview for 15 years, 13 of which he spent as chief. He remembered how proud he was when one year he was named Hillsborough Volunteer Firefighter of the Year.
He aided in starting an antique car club in the Riverview area, although he never owned more than one car at a time. Dubbed the High Rollers Car Club, proceeds from car shows went to charities such as Shriners’ Hospital for Children and Mason Dixon’s Christmas Wish.
“You can always find something to be active in, do a little volunteering,” Johnson said.
After assisting the Public Affairs office in 1998, a supervisor called Johnson in and asked him about joining the department full time.
“I told him I had a question for him,” Johnson said. “I get up in the morning, I get ready, I come to work, I punch a time clock. Eight and a half hours later, I punch a time clock, I go home, I get ready, I go out in the community and I have fun. Do you mean that now I can get up in the morning, get ready, go out and have fun all day and get paid for it?”
Johnson led by example in the community and challenged others to strive for more. He and a colleague vowed to shave their heads if Relay for Life raised $100,000, and grew their hair out and dyed it purple in preparation.
“I have a very weak ‘no’ muscle,” Johnson said. “Coming from the Volunteer State, it’s kind of tattooed on my forehead, ‘ask me, I’ll do it.'”
He fondly recalled a year when the United Way Campaign funds raised by employees at the Riverview plant were matched both by the plant and by corporate. Over $200,000 was raised that year.
“All of the things I’ve been involved with, I tell people, you don’t know which dollar is going to pay for that next cure,” Johnson said. “There is no too small, there is no too big, everything somebody gives counts.”
Although he’ll no longer hold an official title, Johnson plans to continue the work he performed even before it earned him a paycheck.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Johnson said.