A member of Pasco County government who recently retired was recognized this week for his 35 years of service.
After the first few weeks of retirement, Dan Johnson got high praise from Pasco commissioners and his former boss, County Administrator John Gallagher.
Johnson joined the county staff in 1977, five years before Gallagher took the reins of Pasco government. After rising to the post of assistant county administrator for public services, Johnson oversaw a number of operations, including the Pasco County library system, the parks and recreation department, animal services and fire rescue.
The first standing ovation greeted Johnson as he was beckoned to the podium to hear the proclamation commissioners had prepared.
"He's been on vacation for two weeks, and look how much younger he looks," Gallagher said of his former colleague.
"Strange, talking to the board how many years now, and I don't know I've ever been this nervous," Johnson said. "Very strange."
He thanked his family, co-workers and commissioners.
"Let me tell you … you cannot imagine how bad it was in the early years" before Gallagher arrived, Johnson said.
Johnson served six county administrators in the four years before Gallagher settled into the top post in 1982.
"We've grown from 175,000 people in 1977 to almost half a million people today," Johnson said. "I remember State Road 54 was a narrow, two-lane road" for many years, until it was widened to six lanes through west Pasco.
"I really could not have been successful without my staff's help, Dan especially," Gallagher said. "Public service is No. 1 to him. It's just phenomenal."
Gallagher has lost two other top aides to retirement in recent months, Mike Nurrenbrock, the director of the Pasco office of management and budget, and Mike Clark, the county budget director.
The county proclamation honoring Johnson details the long list of capital projects and other improvements during Johnson's watch after his promotion in 1993.
Beginning in 1999, Johnson and the staffs of parks, libraries and fire rescue shaped 10-year capital improvement master plans to keep pace with growth and replace antiquated facilities.
Those master plans and impact fees laid the groundwork for the construction of Key Vista Park, expansion of Regency Park Branch Library, the replacement or addition of 11 fire rescue stations and much more.
Johnson, along with former Fire Chief Anthony Lopinto, persuaded six independent volunteer fire departments and three municipalities to consolidate with the Pasco County department.
Johnson helped guide the design, construction, reconstruction or renovation of two government centers, two judicial centers, four parks, including Eagle Point Park and Lake Lisa Park, expansion of the detention center and many other buildings. He helped with restoration of the crown jewel of the county, the historic courthouse in Dade City that was rededicated in 1998.
Before rising to assistant administrator, Johnson was a project accountant in human services, budget director from 1979 through 1989 and then personnel director. He served in the Marine Corps before going to work for Pasco County.
Johnson got many hugs and handshakes from public officials. Commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand, who will leave the county commission this year after 28 years in office, insisted Johnson promise to take commissioners sailing on his boat.
"Every project he has touched has come out well," Commissioner Jack Mariano said. "Dan always had the public and Pasco County at heart."
"Dan, thank you, God bless you and keep you," Gallagher said. "So when are you taking all of us out to dinner?"