I am going to miss Richard Johnson.
Richard Johnson has been good for Cheyenne. His departure from city government is not.
Whether you agree or not, we can agree on one thing. Richard is a maverick. The label defines someone as independent, unorthodox, free spirited and unconventional. Cowboys use the term to describe an unbranded calf.
There is something troubling, but intriguing, about mavericks. The thing about mavericks is that no one invites them to their house for dinner because you never know what they might say. Mothers and fathers certainly don’t want their daughter to marry one.
Take, for example, what Richard had to say about some of his city-council colleagues who reacted with fear to a proposal that Cheyenne become a Compassionate City. Some fellow city councilmen had a knee-jerk reaction and linked the independent, locally grown Compassionate Cheyenne movement to a national website. The same website attempts to inform anyone who takes time to actually read it that local chapters are not bound by the national goals and are entitled to establish their own. That’s what Compassionate Cheyenne has done.
But the national website mentions a United Nations initiative. The UN is just too scary for council members looking for a politically-correct reason to reject the proposal. Richard didn’t mince words. He called them out. “They are all living in fear, he said. “It’s like there is an 11th member on the dais and it’s the boogeyman.”
Mavericks are not fearless, but unlike run-of-the-mill politicians, they are practiced in controlling their fears in order to get done that which needs to be done and to say that which must be said.
It’s not just his honesty but his get-it-done attitude. Cheyenne will have a splash pad only because Richard willed it to happen.
Those kinds of politicians make others uneasy by setting the bar too high, though most say there ought to be more mavericks. Losing one from the political process is never good.
Richard is quintessentially maverick. Mavericks write their own rules as they walk the walk. Mavericks are willing to look at old problems through eyes staring out from heads tilted from vertical to almost horizontal. The world looks so different from there.
That view of the world is disorienting to most politicians. Mavericks are comfortable with the off-kilter perspective. They like it enough to actually say aloud what they can see from that point of view. They are willing to take the risk of saying things that others may have thought but kept to themselves.
In the 1960s we said such people marched to a different drummer. We learned they actually built a different drum. As a result, they sound different and that makes others nervous even as they are drawn in by the maverick.
I have met Richard face to face only recently, but I have followed his work on the Cheyenne City Council for years. I follow him on social media. I read the news coverage of his endeavors. I haven’t always agreed with him but isn’t that the point of being a maverick. If most people agree with a politician most of the time, that person cannot be a maverick. He or she has been branded and is comfortable with the brand.
Richard Johnson, one the other hand, is unbranded and is true to himself while offering a unique, independent voice on issues, a different way to see the world. More important, he is a maverick who knows how to get things done. That is his hallmark.
Richard says he isn’t very good at politics. Au contraire mon fraire. Did you see the sendoff this troubled country gave John McCain? It wasn’t about him but about his independent voice, his willingness to say and do the unexpected, as a politician who built his own drum and marched to it rather than the tune others banged out for him.
Richard, you may not be very good at politics as usual. That is why the community needs you.