He has served as county administrator during five years of budget cuts and big projects.
Richard Johnson, the calm and steady hand on Hennepin County's tiller since 2007, said Wednesday that he will step down as county administrator at the end of the year.
Johnson, 66, said he felt like it was time to move on and that he had no specific plans for retirement. "I've been thinking about it for some time," he said. "I want to stay active."
Over the past five years Johnson has managed an annual budget ranging up to $2 billion, second only in size in Minnesota to the state budget.
During that time Hennepin County has shrunk its budget to $1.65 billion and reined in its workforce mostly through attrition and reassignments while tackling projects such as building Target Field and merging Minneapolis city libraries with the county library system.
"The last few years have really been a storm for local government, both in terms of the economy and the State Capitol and in terms of our own initiatives," said Mike Opat, chairman of the County Board. "Richard's had to respond to those, and we've seen no lapses in anything. He's been invaluable."
Opat said he is confident there is enough time to set up a search process and find Johnson's successor by the time Johnson leaves.
Johnson had been Hennepin County's deputy administrator for seven years when Sandy Vargas left the position of county administrator in 2007 to become head of the Minneapolis Foundation. The board soon hired Johnson to take her place.
"It's been a tough financial road, but we've been able to weather the storm" by working within budget constraints and finding more efficient ways to deliver services, Johnson said.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455