Oddis “O.J.” Johnson is a study in contrasts.
His campaign kicked off in November 2010 only to stall when his nominating petitions were challenged. His headquarters opened just last month.
Johnson says he will be a full-time, independent alderman for the 29th Ward, a “servant of the people.” But he’s offered to give back half of his salary to the ward for youth mentoring and job training for ex-offenders.
“It’s really a full-time job that’s considered part-time; a lot of aldermen have separate jobs,” the Yazoo City, Miss., native said, sitting in his West Division Street headquarters. “But an alderman is a public servant… If he or she won’t be a leader and a voice for the people, they should not take the job.”
Johnson said if elected, his constituents-because they pay his salary and operations for the ward office-would come first; residents would be able to tell him how he should vote on Chicago City Council matters.
Johnson promises to meet regularly constituents and businessmen in the ward. This is the 60-year-old’s fourth try at the 29th Ward seat, losing in 1991, 1995 and 1999. He recalled being kicked off the ballot in 2003.
A community organizer who cut his teeth on the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Johnson has run the United Front Anti-Crime Organization-a group that deals with community issues of crime and crime prevention-since 1997.
A mostly West Side lifer, he graduated from Our Lady of the Westside Presentation School in 1968 and in 1972 from Cregier Vocational High School, which has since closed. He attended Roosevelt University for two years, studying political science. He’s married with three daughters and a son.
-Deborah Kadin, Austintalks.org