In 1979, Herb Brooks led the University of Minnesota to a third college hockey title. The Village People had a hit with “Y.M.C.A.”
And Randy Johnson joined the Hennepin County Board.
On Tuesday, Johnson, 69, said he won’t run for re-election this fall, opting to step down when his term ends in January after 38 years — making him the longest-serving commissioner since Hennepin County was founded in 1852.
The timing was unusual, given that Johnson had sent out a news release last week announcing his intention to run for another term. He said Tuesday that his change of heart was the result of some deep conversations with his wife over the weekend.
“My wife and I had some long talks,” Johnson said. “We both are fortunately very healthy. We like to travel. We really like to spend time with the grandchildren in Vancouver, B.C. It’s tough to be gone from here for more than 10 days at a time.
“She has expressed a strong preference that I retire and we do these things while we’re still able to do them.”
Johnson, of Bloomington, represents District 5, which includes Bloomington, Richfield and southern Eden Prairie. He said he doesn’t have any idea who might run for his seat but expects that there will be interested candidates.
“There are a lot of smart, talented public-spirited people living in my district,” he said. “And I’m sure they’re on the phone right now.”
First elected to the board as a Republican, Johnson in recent years ran for re-election without the endorsement of either major party. He served several terms as board chair between 1997 and 2008.
Johnson said his proudest achievements included advocating for the Hiawatha light-rail line and co-chairing a bipartisan state commission on welfare reform under Gov. Rudy Perpich.
He also cited administrative improvements at Hennepin County Medical Center, and bringing the Minneapolis public libraries into the Hennepin County system.
An outspoken anti-smoking activist, Johnson co-authored the ordinance that ended smoking in bars and restaurants in the county.
“It was very controversial at the time,” Johnson said, “but frequently people have stopped me on the street, or on an elevator, and said, ‘Thank you for doing that.’ ”