'The epitome of a public servant'

Siler City mayor dies at age 59
Jan. 08, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Siler City Mayor Charles Johnson died Saturday at UNC Hospitals.

The 59-year-old Johnson, who taught Sunday school classes and was involved in many local civic organizations in addition to his official duties, passed away after a two-month battle with heart problems.

John Grimes, Siler City mayor pro-tem and acting mayor, said friends and family did have time to prepare for Johnson's passing, but that it was hard nonetheless — and that the small town in northern Chatham County will be worse off without him.

"He was an excellent mayor and fine man, and he had the goodness of the citizens of Siler City in his heart," Grimes said.

Johnson's wife, Lisa, said that it wasn't only her family who has suffered a loss, since Johnson did so many things with so many different groups and people.

She said he loved visiting local schools and talking to the students, just as much as he enjoyed dealing with the issues that arose in government, and that he always had time for anyone, no matter their circumstances or background.

"Everyone was the same to him," she said. "People were people, and he wanted to hear their stories."

That attitude, she said, was the bedrock of his devotion to the public and private sectors in his city and in the larger Chatham County area.

"I think if you really had to describe Charles, he would just be the epitome of a public servant ...  and he's been like that all his life," she said. "He was born and raised in Siler City, and he loved it deeply."

According to Smith and Buckner Funeral Home, which is assisting the family, the family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. tonight at First Baptist Church in Siler City, followed by a funeral service and burial Wednesday afternoon. Those seeking more details about Johnson's life can read his obituary in today's Herald or online at www.pughfuneralhome.com, where people can also leave condolences for the Johnson family.

Grimes said Monday he doesn't know who will replace Johnson yet, but the town's Board of Commissioners will look into its options and discuss Johnson's successor at its next meeting, on Jan. 22. Town Manager Bryan Thompson — whose first day of work was last Wednesday — said the town commissioners will vote to either let Grimes continue his role as acting mayor or appoint someone else to become mayor. Either way, the seat will be up for election in November.

If the commissioners choose to appoint someone, they will be able to appoint one of their own, or can choose any other Siler City resident. If a board member is selected, the board would also have to appoint someone from that member's district to take his or her spot until the next election.