RICHWOOD, W.Va. — Former longtime Nicholas County circuit judge and state Supreme Court administrator Gary Johnson put on a new public service hat Thursday when he was sworn-in as Richwood’s new mayor.
Johnson, who was elected last month, said after working the last few years in Charleston he wanted to return home and lend his assistance.
“The city’s had a very difficult time the last three or four years and I thought I might be able to help,” Johnson told MetroNews shortly after his swearing-in ceremony.
Richwood was hard hit in the June 2016 flood and then the center of controversy in the years following with criminal allegations that flood recovery money was fraudulently spent. Former Mayor Chris Drennen was recently indicted on fraud charges and is scheduled to be arraigned next week.
Johnson said his first priority is to get the city’s finances stabilized. After that, the focus will be on tourism.
“We’re not a coal town anymore and lumber is receding and we’re going to have to concentrate on tourism,” he said. “The Monongahela National Forest and Cranberry Glades are right beside us.”
Johnson said there are some bright spots in the town along the Cherry River. He said some new local restaurants have recently opened.
When asked to describe the people of Richwood, Johnson called them “the best people in the world.”
“We have a lot of retired miners. We have a lot of people who worked in the lumber industry who worked hard their lives who deserve a city government that will provide them the services they need,” he said.
Johnson was sworn-in by state Supreme Court Justice, former Raleigh County circuit judge, John Hutchison.