Local party changes leader

GREENFIELD — Local Democrats have a new leader who hopes to reignite the party in time for the 2016 election.

Randy Johnson has been tapped to replace Phil Hunt, who recently resigned as chairman of the Hancock County Democratic Party.

Hunt, who plans to stay involved with the party, cited an increased workload as the reason behind his decision to step away from the leadership position he held since 2013.

Johnson, who has lived in Hancock County since June 2014, is retired from the United Steelworkers International Union. Though he’s fairly new to the county’s party, he’s been involved with the national Democratic Party and spoke at the Democratic National Committee in 2012.

He hopes to help strengthen the party and find quality Democrat candidates for the 2016 elections after no local Democrats ran for election this year. Right now, residents don’t see an active Democratic Party in Hancock County, and Johnson hopes to change that.

Johnson said he wants to see a two-party system thrive in Hancock County to give voters more choices. In order to do that, the party will need to find strong candidates to run against Republicans.

He’s already encouraging Democrats to consider running for county seats that are up for election in 2016, including treasurer, coroner, two county commissioner seats and three county council seats. Candidates can begin filing for election Jan. 6.

“Our time is short, but we’re going to do our best to fill positions,” he said. “It’s been my experience there is better accountability if you have a two-party system.”

Johnson, who is married to Rita and has four children and 10 grandchildren, said the party will meet monthly beginning in January and hopes to get more residents engaged in voting and the Democratic process.

Johnson spent most of his career working for labor unions and has helped unions settle labor disputes. Now, he’s a public speaker and consultant, speaking about labor issues, politics, jobs, taxes and the economy.

Hunt said because Johnson is retired and has a lot of energy he’ll be good for the party.

Hunt retired when he first took on the position but continued to work. Now his business has picked up quite a bit, and he’s not able to devote as much time as he’d like to the party.

“Hopefully, good things will happen for the party,” he said.

Judy Brown, a longtime Democrat, said the party and Johnson are eager to find Democrats who might be interested in taking a more active role in the party.

Rita and Randy Johnson make quite a team and are already heavily involved with the party, Brown said, so he believes he’s an excellent choice.

“He’s new to the area and willing to get out and get to know people. … I think he’ll be an asset to us,” she said.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.