Longtime attorney, community volunteer, former Pismo Beach police officer and volunteer fireman J Johnson has been named the Grover Beach Citizen of the Year.
Johnson said he was surprised by the honor, which was announced while he was attending a 5-Cities Men’s Club meeting. Despite his many accomplishments, Johnson was modest when asked for his reaction to the award.
“I just think they ran out of people here (to honor),” he said.
J Dean Johnson was raised on a farm in Iowa and moved to Arroyo Grande in 1959 at the age of 11.
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“It was mostly a farm where you raised corn and soybeans but always had your animals, too,” he recalled. “I was butchering chickens when I was old enough to lift up the ax.”
He was president of Arroyo Grande High School in 1966 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in math and a teaching credential from Cal Poly, where he was active in the ROTC program.
Johnson worked 12 years as a police officer in Pismo Beach, where he was named Police Officer of the Year in 1973. Later, after he became a practicing attorney in 1981, Johnson volunteered at the Grover Beach Fire Department for 15 years.
“My office was right across from fire station,” Johnson explained. “If I was the first one there then I got to drive.”
Over the years, Johnson has served as president of the Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach chambers; the Pismo Beach Rotary Club; the Cal Poly Mustang Athletics Foundation and the Los Padres Council of the Boys Scouts of America. He’s also a former board member of the organization overseeing the Exploration Station in Grover Beach.
Johnson also serves on the Navy League, American Legion Post 136 and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Advisory Council.
He’s a founding member of the 5-Cities Men’s Club and president of its fundraising arm, the 5-Cities Community Service Foundation, which aims to provide funding and support to youth-related activities.
The men’s club was founded in 1996 and has contributed more than $500,000 to local projects and organizations in grants and scholarships. Recently the club revitalized the Mentone Basin Park sports center in Grover Beach with new paint, new surface for the basketball and tennis courts, repainted benches and a piece of public art.
“We’ve done so much,” Johnson said.
Community service foundation members also hope to build a recreation center off West Branch Street.
The Arroyo Grande & Grover Beach Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner starts at 5 p.m. Jan. 29 at the South County Regional Center, 800 W. Branch St.
Tickets are $60. For more information, call the chamber at 489-1488.