THREE FORKS – After 30 years working for the Three Forks Public Works Department, System Operator Randy Johnston plans to retire this December but continue to serve the community.
Two weeks after Johnson officially leaves his position, he will be sworn into a new job as the city’s new mayor, succeeding current Mayor Sean Gifford, who did not seek re-election.
Johnston, a Three Forks native and resident of 68 years, raised three children here. He describes the area as a “nice little community I’ve always treasured.”
Johnston was the only candidate to file for the mayor’s race that was scheduled for next month’s general election, so the City Council removed the race from the ballot and appointed Johnston to the position by acclamation.
Johnston said he was motivated to seek the position because he wanted to assist the city’s efforts to create new water sources to meet the growing demands of the population. He says his decades of experience working with wastewater and water management systems in Three Forks make him well-equipped to assist with the ongoing creation and regulation of new wells to ensure they are in compliance with environmental regulations.
Johnston said the area needs new water sources because development will be inhibited without them.
“The city is growing, and the growth is starting to shut down due to lack of water. We need the water to continue on,” he said. “I have 30 years of experience working with the wells… (and) I just want to be available to show them how our infrastructure works and just keep the citizens of Three Forks’ water and wastewater (needs met) while dealing with other problems.”
Former mayor and current city councilman Gene Townsend, who has known Johnston for 60 years, agreed that water supply issues will be an immediate challenge for the mayor and city council to tackle during the next term of office. He said Johnston’s experience will be a major asset.
“He’s going to bring a wealth of knowledge and experience on the workings of the city and sewer works and public works,” Townsend said. “He was one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever seen when it comes to sewer and water.”
Johnston said other issues he plans to tackle include the city’s growth policy and issues related to new, yet-to-be-published floodplain maps, which affect the city’s west side.
Though his term mayor won’t begin until January, Johnston is attending city council members to prepare for his new duties.
“I hope that in attending the meetings for the next three months and working with everybody, I will gain the knowledge and learn to grow to do what I need to do as mayor,” he said.
Townsend said he has observed Johnston’s dedication and strong work ethic over the years, all traits that will help him as mayor.
“He’s a hard worker, and I think to be a successful mayor, that’s what you need to be,” Townsend said. “There’s work involved and a lot of hours that you didn’t realize needed to be put in, even in a small town. And I think he’ll give it 100 percent, if not more.”