Better know your leaders: Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson
Name: Dennis W. Johnson
Position with the city: Mayor
For how long: 13 years 4 months
When did you move to Dickinson? April 1974
What are some of the changes you've witnessed since being elected?
The '80s and the '90s were, economically, a difficult time for Dickinson due to the oil bust and poor agricultural economy. It was also a politically difficult time. In the mid to late '90s, Dickinson recalled three school board members and four city commission members.
I think one of the greatest changes was the change in our attitude about our community and the change in which Dickinson was perceived by others in North Dakota. There was a pervasive belief in the community that Dickinson wasn't going to grow and would likely decline. People in North Dakota would ask what was wrong with Dickinson and would refer to us as the recall capital of North Dakota.
When the community voted for and built the West River Community Center, our residents became much more confident and positive about our future. Dickinson went on to renovate and add on to its Public Library and construct the Biesot Activities Center. Others started to refer to Dickinson as a progressive community. Those positive attitudes continue to this day as businesses and people are choosing Dickinson as a place to live and invest.
You moved here during the last oil boom, what things stand out to you comparing now to 30 years ago?
Dickinson was much better prepared to manage this oil boom because of the experience and knowledge we gained from the '70s and '80s. The community elected to become a home rule city and passed the city sales tax which enabled the city to pay oil boom debt. The Bakken development impacted northwest North Dakota about three years prior to impacting Dickinson, giving our community added time to observe and prepare.
What drew you to run for mayor in the first place? What has prompted you to keep running?
I believed our city was blessed with great strengths and the potential to be the best city in North Dakota. I wanted to be part of changing the direction of the city and changing the perception others had of our community. I have kept running because I enjoy the job and believe I can continue to make a positive contribution to the success of our community.
Who are your political heroes?
My political heroes from a global perspective are Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. My local heroes are Harold Schafer, Bob Stranik, Ron Kovash, Jack Olin and Hank Schank.
What advice do you have for people moving to Dickinson who wish to become more involved in the community?
Become a volunteer. Many of our city and community charitable organizations depend on volunteers and they are almost always in need of good volunteers.