Randy Johnson, District 5

Commissioner Randy Johnson serves the residents of Hennepin County’s District 5, the southernmost part of the county. This includes Bloomington, southern Eden Prairie and Richfield.

Commissioner Johnson took office in January 1979. He is the longest-serving commissioner since the county’s founding in 1852. He is considered a local and national authority on environmental, technology and financial issues.

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Priorities and initiatives

Commissioner Johnson is committed to ... 

  • Working to make public safety Priority One, including protection for children and vulnerable adults 
  • Promoting technology to save taxpayers money and provide more effective management of county resources
  • Recognizing that our Hennepin employees are one of our great resources
  • Building a comprehensive transportation system that emphasizes better roads and safer bridges
  • Ensuring the continued excellence of Hennepin County Medical Center as one of the nation's premier teaching hospitals that attracts, trains and retains in Minnesota nearly half of our state's physicians
  • Developing the Hennepin-University of Minnesota partnership as a source of ideas and expertise for Hennepin County and the University
  • Supporting the county's leadership in environmental programs, particularly in exploring alternative energy sources

Local leadership

  • Chair, Hennepin County Budget and Capital Investment Committee
  • Hennepin Healthcare System (HCMC) Board
  • Association of Minnesota Counties Board
  • Metropolitan Mosquito Control District Board
  • Metropolitan Emergency Services Board
  • Community Action Partnership for Suburban Hennepin (CAPSH)
  • County Extension Committee
  • Metro GIS Policy Board
  • Hennepin Law Library Board of Trustees

Other positions

  • National Association of Counties (NACo)
    • Past President (first Minnesotan in NACo's history)
    • Chair, NACo Health Reform Committee 
    • Chair, NACo GIS Subcommittee
  • Fellow, National Academy of Public Administration
  • EPA Local Government Advisory Committee
  • Department of Interior - Federal Geographic Data Committee
  • Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), Advisory Committee
  • Co-Chair, NatureServe (The Nature Conservancy subsidiary) Advisory Committee on GIS and Biodiversity
  • Board member, National Committee for Science and the Environment (NCSE)
  • Harvard Policy Groups: Strategic Computing, Performance Measurement
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Advisory Committee
  • Governing Magazine: CIO Summit Advisory Committee

Personal background

"If effective county leaders are those who set examples as well as policy, then Hennepin County Commissioner Randy Johnson is one of the most effective county leaders around."
— Governing magazine 

Commissioner Randy Johnson represents the 160,000 people who live in the cities of Richfield, Bloomington and southern Eden Prairie. He chaired the County Board from 2004 to 2008 and 1997 to 2001.

He was elected in 1978 and re-elected ten successive times, running without opposition in four elections. He chaired the 1998 and 2002 Republican State Conventions and has been endorsed by the Republican party and almost every major labor union.

Commissioner Johnson was the first Minnesotan to be elected president of the National Association of Counties (NACo), the national organization that represents the nation’s 3,100 counties. He was also the first person in NACo’s history to run unopposed.

As President of NACo, Commissioner Johnson stressed the importance of helping counties become more “global, digital, and sustainable." He accepted the first invitation ever offered by the Chinese Government to lead a delegation of locally elected county officials to the People’s Republic of China and subsequently established an exchange program of elected local officials between the two countries; negotiated an agreement to provide an advanced computer mapping Geographic Information System at no cost to all NACo member counties; was named a ‘GIS Hero’ by Esri (Commissioner Randy Johnson Evangelizes Importance of GIS at Local and National Level); and co-chaired the first meeting at the White House of NACo’s partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors that established the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities.

Commissioner Johnson has been invited to testify before Congress more often and on more issues than any elected county official in history.

Commissioner Johnson is considered an international authority on environmental issues. With his leadership, Hennepin County established a comprehensive recycling and integrated solid waste management program that is consistently cited as one of the best in North America. He has addressed conferences at the United Nations and abroad on such issues as alternative fuels, climate change, waste management, new technologies and health care.

Commissioner Johnson was elected to be one of the 500 Fellows of the Congressionally Chartered National Academy for Public Administration in Washington, D.C. He is one of the very few elected county officials ever to become an Academy Fellow.

Commissioner Johnson oversaw a major change in governance of the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), a 600-bed public teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Minnesota. He serves on the new HCMC board of directors.

Commissioner Johnson served on the board of directors of the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco (now known as ClearWay Minnesota), the unique nonprofit organization that is responsible for allocating Minnesota’s settlement with the tobacco companies.

Commissioner Johnson co-chaired the Governor’s Bi-partisan Blue-Ribbon Commission on Welfare Reform which broke a bitter legislative deadlock and unanimously set the framework for Minnesota’s innovative welfare reform efforts.

He has served as chair of the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, Metropolitan 911 Board, Metropolitan Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board, Metropolitan Emergency Services Board, Metro Counties Energy Task Force, Metro GIS Policy Committee, RDF Advisory Committee, and Health Futures Institute. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, United Way, Association of Minnesota Counties, Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association (Meet Minneapolis) and the University of Minnesota China Center Advisory Council.

In Washington, D.C., Commissioner Johnson has served on the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Place-Based Decision-Making; Environmental Protection Agency Local Government Advisory Committee; Department of Interior National Geospatial Advisory Committee; Federal Communications Commission State and Local Government Advisory Committee; Federal Geographic Data Committee; Housing and Urban Development Community Builders’ Advisory Board; Urban Institute’s Assessing the New Federalism Advisory Committee; National Council for Science and the Environment board of directors; the Department of Justice’s National Task Force on Interoperability; and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) board for the Geo-Spatial One-Stop service.

Government Technology magazine named Commissioner Johnson as one of its “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of Information Technology," saying that he had helped "lead the digital revolution in government throughout its infancy and early development."

Commissioner Johnson also served on the Policy Group on Strategic Computing as well as the Executive Session on Public Sector Performance Management and Outcome Measurement at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Commissioner Johnson received a J.D. degree cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School where he was a member of the Law Review; a B.A. in Political Science from Macalester College in St. Paul; and a diploma “with honors” from Minneapolis South High School.

Prior to his election, Commissioner Johnson was Assistant General Counsel at the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C.; an associate in the Faegre and Benson law firm in Minneapolis (now Faegre Baker Daniels); legal assistant at the National Coal Board in London, England; and Legislative Assistant to Minnesota’s first Commissioner of Human Rights.

After graduating from law school, Commissioner Johnson and his wife, Polly, "sold everything they owned and borrowed all the money they could" and spent the next year working in London, England, and hitchhiking in Europe, Morocco and Turkey.

He and Polly live in Bloomington. They have two daughters, one who graduated from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and teaches elementary school in Vancouver, British Columbia; and another who graduated from the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) after studying at Normandale College and the University of Hawaii, and is a statistician.

State of the County Addresses

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