ABINGDON, Va. - When the Virginia General Assembly convenes next week in Richmond, Delegate Joe Johnson won't be involved for the first time in nearly three decades.
Delegate Johnson decided to retire from the assembly and not seek re-election last year. We stopped at his law office to take a look back at his career.
28 years of public service hang on the walls of Joe Johnson's law practice in Abingdon. For the first time since 1965, Johnson will not be making that trip to Richmond the first week in January.
That first trip as a new delegate was a bit intimidating. "The first session I was a little bit intimated. At that time I was very young. I really didn't know what was going on," he told us. "The old timers were very protective with their power and they didn't share it with young delegates," Delegate Johnson said.
That young delegate turned into an elder statesman as he was elected to represent the voters of Southwest Virginia time after time.
One of his secrets was to put the region first in what ever he did. "I was elected as a Democrat, been a Democrat all these years. But when I got to Richmond I forgot about whether I was a Democrat or Republican. I tried to maybe support and work for those things that would be good for Southwest Virginia," Johnson says.
One of those things was keeping tobacco settlement money out of the general fund and reinvesting it back into the region. "The scholarships for our students at the higher education center, the community college, you can't put a price tag on what that's meant to so many students in order for them to get an education," he said.
He has a motto that sticks on his desk that he lives by each day. "When I get up in the morning three things that I think about -- I smile, I shake hands, and I say thank you. If a politician could do that and forget about politics, you can accomplish a lot of things," he said.