In “Off Duty,” the Smithfield Herald asks community leaders about their interests – what they’re reading, what they’re listening to, what they’re watching.
Chris Johnson became Johnston County’s economic-development director last year. His roots are in Smithfield, where he served as director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp. from 2000 to 2013.
Johnson graduated from Northampton County High School in 1984 and earned a degree in industrial technology education from East Carolina University in 1989. He spent four years as equipment manager for the ECU football team and was an aide to Congressman David Funderburk before coming to Smithfield.
Johnson, 48, who lives in Smithfield, is married to Kim Gower Johnson, who owns Jewels Formals on Market Street in Smithfield. He is active in Neuse Charter School, where the couple’s son, Quinton, is a senior and daughter Caroline is a freshman.
What are your hobbies? I enjoy all sorts of athletics. My father was a coach in high school, so my “seasons” consisted of not fall, winter and spring, but football season, basketball season and baseball season. I have been getting into cycling and have competed in several “sprint marathons.”
What music have you been listening to lately? I am in the first year of the Generation X, so my music is across the board, old-school stuff like Earth Wind & Fire, Con Funk Shun, Parliament, Rick James, Hall & Oats, REO Speedwagon, The Cars, Journey and then Southern rock. Anything from the 1970s and 1980s. Throw in a little Frank Sinatra, Little Richard. I guess am a musical misfit.
What books are you currently reading? Just finished up “The Unwinding,” a nonfiction by George Packard. I saw him being interviewed on “Real Time” with Bill Maher and was fascinated with his view of the changing of America. I was captivated with one of the individuals he wrote about, Dean Price, who is a true visionary and his desire to make more sustainable communities with biofuels. I am currently reading a quick book called “Coffee With Jesus” and then “Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future Earth” by Alan Weisman.
What is your favorite television show? I love reruns and am a huge “Seinfeld” guy. I watch mostly old reruns of other sitcoms like “MASH,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Andy Griffith.” I also watch new stuff. and that would be “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Real Time with Bill Maher”; got to have political balance. And “Pardon the Interruption” and “NC Spin.”
If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would you dine with? Abraham Lincoln, Gen. William T. Sherman and Gen. Robert E. Lee. Since my old office was in the historic Hastings House, I have grown fond of Civil War history. I’d probably need to invite Dr. John Booker (a retired Smithfield veterinarian and Civil War buff) to help explain the conversation to me after it was over.
Describe a perfect day. Spending any fall, sunny, Saturday afternoon at ECU watching a football game – and winning of course.
What is the most fascinating place you’ve been to? I have been fortunate to travel to tons of places, but none equal hiking some of the shorter trails in the North Carolina mountains.
What is the one food you can’t resist? Baked banana pudding; none of this out-of-the-can cold stuff; coconut cake, but not the type with the cream-cheese icing; and then a Krispy Kreme doughnut, the one they pick up with the straw after it takes a bath under the glaze and comes right off the conveyer belt when the hot sign is on.
If you had to perform in a talent show, what would your talent be? I have always been able to sing, and I have always been a cut-up and love feeding my oversize ego. I can play an awesome air guitar, probably one of the best around.
What is something that some might be surprised to know about you? That’s a tough question, as I feel I am pretty much an open book; maybe that I still drive the same car I did in high school.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? To be more patient, maybe? I think I used to have more patience when I was younger.
What is your most embarrassing moment? I have the ability to be able to laugh at myself. Although I am a very professional person, I try not to take life too seriously and enjoy the time the good Lord has given me here on earth. I honestly can’t think of anything embarrassing.