Lawrenceville mayor Judy Jordan Johnson named GRPA ‘Volunteer of the Year’

Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson, second from right, receives the Georgia Recreation and Park Association Volunteer of the Year award from GRPA Executive Director Steve Card, from left, Gwinnett County Community Services Director Tina Fleming and county commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash on Oct. 16. Johnson was recognized for her work with bicentennial planning in the county. (Photo: Gwinnett County)

Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson gasped and was taken aback earlier this month when county officials sprung the surprise on her that she’d been named the Georgia Recreation and Park Association’s Volunteer of the Year.

Johnson had been asked to help with an award presentation on Oct. 16, but the county had kept details of the award a secret and it wasn’t until she was announced as the recipient that she realized the real reason for why she was up there. Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who helped present the award, then gave the stunned mayor a hug.

As the proclamation accompanying the award was read at the county commission meeting, Johnson began to tear up as her involvement with the county’s bicentennial’s celebrations, including a bicentennial torch relay, was read aloud.

“I’m standing here thinking I should be smiling instead of crying, but thank you so much for this recognition and this honor, but it doesn’t go just to me,” Johnson said as she received the award. “I had to first sell the bicentennial committee on this (relay) idea. As my husband said, ‘Only I would think of something like this.’”

Johnson was recognized as the state’s top volunteer in the 150,001 and up population category. Gwinnett County Community Services Director Tina Fleming said the county couldn’t think of the better person to nominate for the award, which is the highest award GRPA hands out to volunteers.

County officials said Johnson was nominated for the award in recognition of her support of county parks and her work on the bicentennial citizens advisory committee.

That includes the bicentennial torch relay that has been making its way around Gwinnett County throughout the year. The torch run was Johnson’s idea, and she has accompanied high school students as they carried the torch from one location to the next.

“We think it’s totally appropriate that you receive this recognition Mayor Johnson,” Nash told the mayor during the presentation. “I love seeing the photos of the cross country teams, and there you are running with them, which is totally amazing.

“But it’s not just the work that you did with the torch run as big of a deal as that is. It’s all of the other support that you have given to the entire bicentennial approach, and if there’s a bigger cheerleader for the city of Lawrenceville and the county of Gwinnett, I don’t know who that is.”

Georgia Recreation and Park Association Executive Director Steve Card said, “This is a lady that gets it. She is certainly part of the reason why Gwinnett is one of the fastest, why Lawrenceville is one of the fastest growing cities that is sustainable in the entire Southeast.”

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta. I eventually wandered away from home and attended the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg, Miss., where I first tried my hand at majoring in film for a couple of years. And then political sc