Hard pressed would one be to hear the words “City of Hollandale” and not regard long-time city clerk, Helen Johnson — the city’s first black municipal clerk.
After 20 years of service to the municipality, Johnson has retired, leaving a mark not only on the City of Hollandale, but its residents and city officials — those current and former.
Since becoming city clerk, Johnson has worked under five mayoral administrations.
Although she has served in the role of city clerk for two decades, she has served as a Christian, wife, mother and grandmother for much longer.
And, she persisted even after a battle with breast cancer and the recent loss of her husband.
“I would not have been able to do any of what I’ve done without God,” Johnson said. “He has really kept me.”
At least 30 days is how long Johnson said it will probably take for the reality of her now being retired to set in.
“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that I actually did it because I’m just a busy person all of the time anyway,” she said. “It looks like every day that I’m actually not at the office, my day has already been pre-planned.”
Johnson’s last working day was June 30, but she has been going to the office periodically to tend to some tasks and ensure her successor, Jeanette Bowdre, has a smooth and not so overwhelming transition.
She admitted not having to deal with the “day-to-day” of the city business felt pretty great.
However, reflecting on her retirement celebration one week ago, certain emotions did not escape her.
Escorted by her adoring children into the red carpet entrance, Johnson was in awe of all of the people who came out to take part in the celebration of her retirement.
“I had relatives there who traveled from out of state that I did not think were going to be able to make it and many friends from the Hollandale community who came to help me celebrate. It really touched my heart just to see everyone who came out,” she said, also noting the attendance of employees of Washington County, state and local government officials, fellow city clerks and USDA representatives.
On Johnson’s “list of things to do” with her free time are travel, rest and DIY projects in her home, but topping that list is additional time with her family.
Johnson has six sisters, the majority of whom live in St. Louis, Missouri, while the other three reside in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois.
“I’m the baby,” Johnson noted, “I know I have to spend time with them and that’s what I want to do.”
Johnson highlighted her love and adoration for her grandchildren.
“They’re around all the time and I’ve got boys and girls,” she shared.
Plans to take her set of granddaughters on a trip and her set of grandsons on a trip is something Johnson said she is especially looking forward to, adding, “That makes me happier than anything else — being able to take care of and do for them.”
Johnson said of her service to the City of Hollandale, “I love my community so much and I am so appreciative that there are so many people who have put their trust in me and have allowed me to serve them. I pray all the time that my service has been beneficial.”
Having vowed to serve with integrity and dignity, Johnson is prayerful that her character has been impactful and that of undeniable graciousness and respectability.
“I pray that I’ve touched some lives and that my service will not have been in vain,” she added.