Van W. Johnson, Sr.
Mayor of Apalachicola
Assumed Office October 2, 2007
Preceded by Boyd "Sandy" Howze, Jr.
City Commissioner, Seat 3
In office October 7, 1997 - October 2, 2007
Preceded by Wallace Hill
Succeeded by Frank Cook
Apalachicola High School
Gulf Coast Community College
FSU Institute of Government
Santa Fe Community College
UF TREEO Center
Gail Denece Simmons (m. 1981)
Van W. Johnson, Sr., Mayor of Apalachicola, Florida (2007- Present), was born in Apalachicola on November 7, 1959, the
seventh child to late Abe Johnson, Sr., and Azalee Pollock-Johnson. His father a disabled World War II Veteran, served as
President of the Franklin County Voters League and his mother served as one of the 1969 founders and President of the
Franklin County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During his mother’s
administration as president of the NAACP the mayor served as Second Vice-President and chair of the legal redress
From kindergarten through the third grade, the mayor attended Holy Family School, a private segregated Catholic school
on Seventh Street in Apalachicola and later attended and graduated in 1978 from Apalachicola High School. The mayor
lettered in both varsity football and basketball, and in his senior year was selected to the "All Big Bend Conference"
After High School the mayor attended Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Florida, where he majored in
computer science. Shortly afterward, he left college and on March 26, 1981, he married his high school sweetheart the
former Gail "Teddy" Simmons of Apalachicola and together raised five wonderful children: Van II, Ezekiel, Kristy, Ashley,
Early on the mayor found employment in the local seafood industry and later on St. Vincent’s Island with a young adult
conservation program and on March 1, 1982, he gained employment as a Laborer Trainee with the Franklin County Solid
Waste Department and was promoted to Truck Driver after eighteen months on the job, and promoted again to the
position of Heavy Equipment Operator a year later.
In November of 1991, the mayor was appointed Director over the Franklin County Solid Waste & Recycling Department.
The County Commission later added to his charge the administration of both the Animal Control and Parks & Recreation
While employed by the county the mayor attended the University of Florida TREEO Center and obtained certification as
a Landfill Manager and later attended Santa Fe Community College and received training and certification as a Recycling
In 1993, at the age of 33, the mayor made his first attempt at a political office running for the Seat, 3, seat on the
Apalachicola Board of City Commissioners and losing the race by a paper-thin margin of 14 votes. Undeterred the mayor
ran again for the same seat in 1997, in which he successfully defeated the incumbent commissioner out of a field of five
candidates. He was reelected city commissioner in 2001, and ran unopposed in 2005.
During his first year as a city commissioner at his own expense he attended the Florida State University Institute of
Government and obtained training and certification as an Elected Municipal Official and in 1999 his fellow Board
members selected him to serve as Mayor Pro-Tem and he served on the board in that capacity a combined total of 4-
In 2007 he tendered his resignation as a city commissioner in order to place his name on the ballot during the city's
mayoral election. Facing a field of three candidates, a former city commissioner, and a member of the City’s Planning &
Zoning Board. The mayor won the election in a run-off by 111 votes to become the first duly elected African-American
Mayor in the History of Apalachicola, Florida.
Under Mayor Johnson's leadership, the city has established a dedicated youth center, and an after school and summer
enrichment program along with a state-of-art senior citizen center. The city also obtained and expended $8 million in
grant funds toward the construction of a wastewater reclamation system, along with renovating the city’s beautiful park
system. In addition, the city utilized grant funds to acquire riverfront properties to deter the undesired development
of the city’s historic working waterfront.
The city constructed a new Police/Fire Station and supported the establishment of the first ever raised bed community
garden, where members of the community interact and share the secrets of gardening as they propose solutions to the
latest community concerns.
The can now proudly boast of having its own History, Culture and Art Center, which fits nicely within the city’s Florida
Main Street district along with the city’s nationally recognized designation as a distinctive destination community by
the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Also under Mayor Johnson’s administration, there has been an ongoing
series of free live outdoor summer concerts on the city dock at the newly renovated Riverfront Park across the street
from the History, Culture and Art Center. The city also accepted the first ever Passion for Preservation award presented
by the Trinity Church Tour of Historic Homes Committee for restoring the eighty plus year old Holy Family Center.
The mayor found time to give back to the community as a volunteer youth league coach. He coached and headed the
local Dixie Youth Baseball League and the Franklin County Little League Football and Cheer leading Programs.
The Mayor and his family proudly attend Smith Chapel Apostolic Overcoming Holiness Church of Christ, Inc., in the City
of Apalachicola, a small home church founded by the his mother in 1979.
The official biography of Apalachicola Mayor Van W. Johnson, Sr., - 2014 - All Rights Reserved!
|Mayor Van W. Johnson, Sr.