By Wil Crews
Opelika Observer

Robert Johnson, senior pastor at Freedom Life Worship Center, has announced his intentions to run for the Opelika City Council Ward 1 seat.

“The thing that really inspired me, is that I see so much potential and opportunity in our community –– especially in Ward 1,” Johnson said.

Johnson wants to re-build Ward 1 from the ground up and from the inside out. To accomplish this, he’s building his campaign on four pillars.

If elected, Johnson’s paramount goal is empowering the people. With skills training, motivational coaching and mentorship, Johnson believes people can be given the license and confidence to do great things, for themselves and the community.

Secondly, Johnson hopes to change the environment. “If you change the environment, if the streets are safe, if the community is a vibrant, well-kept community, it gives people a sense of pride and hope,” Johnson added. “Now they begin to believe that they can be more, do more and have more.”

Thirdly, Johnson wants to create opportunities. “If [the people] don’t have opportunities, if they don’t have a choice and if they don’t have a chance… then they’re left pretty much hopeless.”

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Johnson wants to make sure people get connected with those opportunities. “The opportunities can be right under people’s noses, but unless somebody points them to those opportunities, they can go untapped,” Johnson said. “We want to be a bridge for the people. I believe that’s a big part of the responsibility and work of the city council.”

Johnson graduated from Opelika State Technical School in 1987. Now, he is the senior pastor at Freedom Life Worship Center at 108 N 8th St. As a pastor, Johnson’s faith will play a large role in his campaign –– but perhaps not exactly how one would think.

“I would say the greatest role that my faith will have in it, is the faith that I have in people,” Johnson said. “The faith that I have in God, it gives me a perspective to look at every man as being equal. Every person is just as important as the next.”

He began his career as a police officer in Goodwater, Alabama. From there he went to Camp Hill, where he was promoted to sergeant. Johnson then capped off his time in law enforcement as a deputy sheriff in Coosa County.

Since his time on the force, the world has certainly changed. From both a national and local perspective, the general attitude that many people hold toward the police force can be described in one word –– distrust.

Johnson hopes to change that, particularly in Opelika. He wants to bring a sense of connectedness back to the community and he believes it starts with one thing.

“Respect, respect, respect. If you have that proper respect –– that is that everyone is eye-to-eye –– then it opens the door for a place of mutual understanding,” Johnson said. “Then, that opens the door for conversation.”

Johnson left Coosa County and subsequently traded in his badge for his book –– the Bible. He would go on to spend over 15 years as the youth pastor at Darian Missionary Baptist Church. There he worked with children and teens, in a youth group of well over 100 kids, and participated in extensive community outreach projects. 

Johnson has now lived in Ward 1 for 12 years. His commitment to community involvement has only strengthened. 

Johnson volunteers with New Birth Outreach, where he does empowerment sessions and faith based mentorship.  He is a strong advocate for the Carver community, and he also dedicates his time and resources to the East Alabama Food Bank and several other community service organizations.

Furthermore, Johnson has helped launch community outreach programs such as The Money School –– which focuses on financial education –– MEND, a coaching and mentorship clergy coalition, and Excel 365, an organization with the mission to encourage young men in the areas of ethics, etiquette, community service, dress codes, teamwork, business, finance and more. 

Under the church ministry at Freedom Life, Johnson owns and works with his wife, Allison Johnson, at Emerald Cove Early Learning Center. The two have been married for 26 years and are the proud parents of five children and proud grandparents of seven grandchildren.

As a lasting message to tell Opelika’s Ward 1 why he is the right candidate, Johnson had this to say: “I have the experience. I have a solid vision for Opelika, specifically Ward 1. I have passion for Opelika and Ward 1. I have a strategic plan to bring about change for the best in Ward 1. I have the belief and the faith that we can do it, we will do it, we must do it.”

Johnson is the fourth candidate to announce a run for the Opelika City Council Ward 1 seat.

Patsy Jones is vacating the seat after serving more than 25 years in it.

The Opelika municipal election is set for Aug. 25.