PPIA alumni go on to become leaders in all areas of public service, including elected positions! Congratulations to PPIA alumnus Eric Johnson who won the election on June 8, 2019 to become the next mayor of Dallas, Texas! In honor of his win, take a check out Mayor-elect Johnson’s interview with PPIA from 2014.
JSI Attended: UC Berkeley, 1997
Current Title: Representative, District 100
Current Employer: Texas House of Representatives
Eric Johnson represents District 100, which includes parts of Dallas and Mesquite, in the Texas House of Representatives. He was first elected in a special election in April 2010. Today, he serves on three prominent committees: he is Vice Chair of the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, and a member of the powerful House Calendars Committee.
In addition to his work in the Legislature, Representative Johnson serves as Of Counsel in the Dallas office of Andrews Kurth LLP, focusing his practice on public financing matters. He holds a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and a degree in History from Harvard University. Representative Johnson lives in Dallas with his wife, Nakita, and son, William.
What does public service mean to you?
Public service means sacrifice. As a member of the Texas Legislature, which meets every other year for five straight months, I miss out on spending time with my wife and my son, William, during session. But even when I am not in session, the demands of constituent service also take me away from my family more than I would like. However, my entire family is committed to the idea that “to whom much is given, much is required”, and I have been given a lot: a great education, a tremendous network of friends and associates, and an ability to communicate well both orally and in writing. Serving the public by advocating on behalf of my constituents is the highlight of my career so far, and I consider it a great honor.
How did you learn about PPIA? Why did you apply?
I am embarrassed to say that I learned about PPIA from a trifold pamphlet that I saw either on a bulletin board or lying around when I was an undergraduate. I applied because the idea of spending a summer at graduate school studying public policy with a group of students who had similar interests sounded wonderful, and it was! I had one of the best summers of my life at Berkeley and made some friends with whom I still talk today.
What was your most significant take away from your JSI experience?
My most significant take away from JSI was, in addition to learning how to perform benefit-cost analysis of public policy, my relationship with my classmates and also Tom McCullough, our graduate level math instructor from Haas. He and I are still friends, and he gave me much needed confidence in my ability to do graduate level math.
You received an MPA from Princeton University. How has your graduate school experience contributed to your career path?
My Princeton education has already had a great impact on my career. Probably the greatest thing I took away from my time at Princeton is that I really can do anything I set my mind to doing. I also met the best man in my wedding and one of my best friends while there, so it was time very well spent.
What is your favorite thing about serving as the Representative for Texas’ 100th District?
The best thing about representing District 100 in the Texas House is being able to help the area of Dallas that I grew up in by advancing legislation that will positively impact the lives of the people who live in my district. I also love being able to tell boys and girls who live in the neighborhoods I grew up in that they can become whatever they want to become — and have them actually believe me because I’m “from their ‘hood”.
What are some key policy issues that you see facing public servants in the near future?
I believe that some of the issues that we are going to have to face in Texas and nationally, sooner or later, are: climate change, education, race relations, lack of civic participation, the influence of money on our political system, hyper-partisanship, foreign and domestic terrorism, and drone warfare. How’s that for a to-do list? I relish the idea of being a part of the solutions to these problems.
What advice do you have for others considering running for office?
Don’t do it if you cannot afford it financially (I make $7,200 annually as a state representative), or your family is not solidly behind you, or you get more excited about the idea of being on TV than you do about working your butt off to solve some very difficult problems. Seriously. Do yourself and all the rest of us a favor and just don’t. Otherwise, please do! It can be extremely rewarding!
What achievement are you most proud of?
I haven’t achieved it yet. I prefer to look forward, not backward. I’m only 39!