James Johnson looks to break the mold for Decatur City Commission candidates

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt October 17, 2015
James Johnson. Source: http://www.knightjohnson.com/

James Johnson. Source: http://www.knightjohnson.com/

Attorney James Johnson doesn’t have a resume of public service like his opponent for the District 2 City Commission seat, Brian Smith.

Johnson likes it that way. Smith chairs the Zoning Board of Appeals, is affable and connected to Decatur’s power brokers. Johnson thrives on being an outsider, someone who hasn’t checked the boxes that most people would when seeking a public office. He also has a penchant for profanity, as demonstrated by his remarks during a recent forum.

“My personal perception is that leadership in Decatur consists of about 15 people and they’re the same people that are always around, always hyping up their volunteer credentials, or leadership credentials,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of people, I think, like me who haven’t done those things, and I think there are a lot of people who are intimidated by not taking part in the system. When I saw the current slate, my first thought was it’s mostly the same old people. I said, ‘Well shit, I’ll do it.’ I think that Decatur needs fresh faces, fresh ideas.”


Johnson is a practicing trial attorney, focusing on “commercial litigation with an emphasis on real estate, lending, and construction disputes,” according to his company’s website. He lives in Decatur with his wife, Erin and their 2-year-old daughter, Drew.

He said if elected, he wants see Decatur become the first city in the state to pay teachers $60,000 per year. He wants to lower the age of the homestead tax exemption for seniors.

“I’m a proponent of raising permitting fees for new residential houses in Decatur with excess funds going directly to the schools,” Johnson said.

He also said he wants to promote downtown development.

“Decatur is awesome in that it’s got transit, it’s got infrastructure downtown,” Johnson said. “You don’t see too many big businesses there. I’d like to see offices get full downtown with new businesses. If those buildings are full with big businesses and occupancy taxes, that’s a hell of a way to fund schools.”

Johnson said the prospect of annexing more property into the city is one of his “pet peeves.”

“We talk about annexation because people are afraid to face financial realities,” he said. “They’re afraid to properly budget. … I think Decatur needs to go to the real issue that it’s not going to grow forever.”

Editor’s note: Decaturish is contacting every candidate running in the Nov. 3 municipal elections in Decatur and Avondale Estates. Candidates can send their biographical information and photo to editor@decaturish.com. 


About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Chris Billingsley

    Mr. Johnson’s campaign page is interesting. What I like about it is that nowhere did I read anything about “… Decatur’s diversity is one of our greatest assets and if elected, I will promote it feverishly. …”
    I also noticed that there was no endorsement list. Those of us that have survived numerous Decatur elections know how important this is but also how it tends to support the status quo. I enjoy going to the candidate sites and when seeing certain supporters think, “Oh, so this is the one who will pull the strings”. What I didn’t like is his idea to stick it to the business folks. For me, spending is the real problem. Candidates need to not only discuss cutting spending but also their views on alcohol permits for the cemetery, square and other parks as well as future sweet-heart deals for well connected businesses and non-profits (and what about that damn tree ordinance and anti-police committee!).
    There is one more thing. Will Mr. Johnson promise not to cry during a commission meeting? One at-large candidate has told me, “Chris, if I start crying at a meeting you have my permission to slap me like my momma did when she found me lookin’ at Playboy”.
    My issues: Cut Spending. No Alcohol In City Parks/Cemetery. No Sweet-heart Deals. Support The Police and most important of all, NO CRYING!!!

    • I promise I won’t cry.

      • Chris Billingsley

        Thanks Mr. Johnson. Your comment at the Decatur Heights forum about “mo’ drinkin’ and walkin’ round” (what I heard) made me smile. If by some miracle you win, I will attend even more commission meeting than now (which is too damn many). You are an interesting candidate, not my usual pick but I wish you the best of luck.

  • TinMan

    Great, so the Trump effect has spilled over to local elections – vote for me because I know the least about how this city operates. If elected, will Mr. Johnson’s first act be to eliminate the citizen boards and commissions in Decatur? Having our neighbors part of the process is one of the things that makes Decatur the envy of the South.

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