Forsyth County will soon welcome its new county manager, whose employment agreement was approved by the Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting Thursday evening.
Eric Johnson, who hails from Hillsborough County in Florida, will begin the new role on Tuesday, Sept. 5 — the day after Labor Day.
Commissioners voted him the “singular finalist” for the position at a special called meeting on July 18.
“I know I’m coming into a government that has very strong capacities and capabilities,” Johnson said. “This is the chance, really, to have the corner office and step into a government that’s sending all the signals of success. I like the area and anticipate the challenges, and I think there’s a lot to [be done] here.”
Johnson will succeed Doug Derrer, who retired in April after serving as county manager since 2009.
“I actually had a Google alerts set up, so the day after Doug announced his retirement, I knew about the opening,” Johnson said.
Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt has been serving as interim county manager since April.
For the past 30 years, Johnson has worked in various county government roles, 24 years of which were spent in senior management roles.
Since 2015, he has held the position of Hillsborough’s assistant county administrator, previously serving as their director of strategic planning and ERP implementation, management services administrator, director of management and budget and budget manager.
He said he sees a lot of the same issues he took on in Hillsborough County in Forsyth.
“I had the opportunity a little over a month ago to see the [Forsyth County] Board of Commissioners adopt the 20-year comprehensive plan,” he said. “My perspective at this point is [Forsyth] has significant growth anticipated, and with that comes opportunities and challenges. What I see is the opportunity for the county to be able to deal with day-to-day issues but also make short-term decisions with the idea of what we want the county to look like 10 or 20 years from now.
“Those include economic development, population growth, water and sewer [infrastructure] … all issues the community I’ll be moving from has been dealing with. They are not foreign issues, and that’s part of what attracts me to Forsyth; though the issues aren’t easy ones, they’re familiar ones.”
Johnson said he is also excited to work in a place with an AAA bond rating, the highest rating available from Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s Investor Services, independent organizations that provide credit ratings and research covering debt instruments and securities.
“I’ve been looking at the community, and I’m impressed,” he said. “There are only a few dozen counties in the country with AAA bond ratings; I’m coming from one of the others. It’s exciting to come to a place that is being recognized for what it’s doing and that has the capacity within the staff and board to accomplish what Aneeds to be accomplished.”
In addition to his official role, Johnson said he eagerly anticipates his move to the area and his soon-to-be easy access to the Appalachian Trail, which he said he is fond of hiking.
He and his wife have been looking at houses near Lake Lanier. Coming from the Tampa area, Johnson said the desire to be close to a body of water is a strong one.
The couple has one adult daughter who currently lives in New York.