KATIE ZERR: Johnson served with dignity, class

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Tim Johnson has served this state with class and dignity. He is an intelligent gentleman who treated his constituents with care and always kept his roots deeply embedded in South Dakota soil.

He will be missed in the United States Senate. As we have witnessed time and time again in recent years, there are few like Tim Johnson serving in Congress these days.

His struggles with his health have made the past six years very difficult for him, but he has battled through the challenges to get back into his office on the hill.

Johnson earned the respect of colleagues and with that came seats on important committees including the appropriations and banking committees. He is a champion for human rights and followed through with requests from the people he represented.

For the last couple of years there has been speculation that he would retire in 2014 and both parties are at the ready to launch the long battle for this seat. We have witnessed a number of very nasty campaigns for congressional seats in the recent past. When the national party committees become involved, it is no holds barred and it can get ugly.

Watching classless and disrespectful behavior displayed in Washington and on the state level on daily basis, makes one wonder if people like Johnson, Tom Daschle, Jim Abdnor, Jim Abourezk, George McGovern and Larry Pressler would make in today’s Congress.

Johnson’s recent health issues were not the first of his professional career. He wastreated for prostate cancer in 2004. It was on Dec. 13, 2006, during a live interview with WNAX radio in Yankton, Johnson suffered bleeding in the brain caused by a cerebral arteriovenous malformation. He had surgery at George Washington University Hospital and for a while, the people of South Dakota waited anxiously to hear how this would impact his life. After successful surgery, Johnson faced a rigorous combination of physical, occupational, and speech therapy to gain strength and mobility. He worked hard to restore his severely- affected speech and to once again walk the halls of Congress.

South Dakotans were proud of his fight to return to work and on Feb. 15, 2007, Johnson marked his return to Senate work by co-sponsoring his first piece of legislation since his illness, the Emergency Farm Relief Act of 2007.

While in Congress, Johnson wasn’t afraid to cross political lines when he thought it would benefit South Dakota and what was expected from the people back home. In 1996 he voted for welfare reform and to repeal the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. He voted for President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut and took a strong stand on the use of the death penalty.

He has been honored for his work for the Native Americans, small business and agriculture, and many others.

Johnson consistently supportedthe federal grant programs that benefitted rural communities, including Mobridge.

He helped Mobridge City leaders in securing funds on a number of projects including the development of the riverfront and the railroad crossing.

He sat along the shores of Lake Oahe at a picnic with community leaders to discuss what was to be done and possibilities for funding.

At that meeting he was honest, forthright and believable. It made one know he would and could help and he did.

Daschle described Johnson as an amazing, very dedicated public servant who provided extraordinary leadership across the board.

He said Johnson was an extraordinary public servant with empathy, an ability to listen, genuineness and sincerity, which made a big impact on those with whom he served and those he served.

He will be missed.

– Katie Zerr –

 
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