Jeff Johnson's career spans more than two decades at AARP in St. Petersburg, beginning at a Senior Program Assistant and now serving as State Director (since 2010). Johnson has a background in public relations and sales, and has worked to create a positive, productive culture for staff and volunteers and build connections across boundaries among community partners throughout his career. Johnson serves on the Florida College System Statewide and Student Engagement Committees for the Institute of Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that aims to enhance understanding, educate students and citizens, and engage conversation in support of effective, solution-oriented public policy.
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
SPC Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions board; Florida Civic Advance board and past chair; Florida Council on Aging board president; Leadership Florida past program chair; USF School for Aging Studies advisory council; St. Paul’s Catholic Church; Plus my day job, AARP Florida State Director
What gets you out of bed every day?
My job is to lead a great team on a mission to empower Floridians 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. I get to do work I love, with people I love, in a place I love, for a higher purpose.
Why St. Pete?
I grew up in Jacksonville, but one of my sisters worked for the St. Petersburg Times, so I had visited the area often when I was a teenager. I was working in sports when the opportunity to work for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays came up, and the opportunity to return to Florida, to a community I knew, was exactly what I was looking for. Ever since we moved here in 1999, my wife and I have known this was home.
What is one habit that you keep?
Every morning I write my to-do list, but along with the tasks I also write out my personal mission statement.
Who are some people that influence you?
As a leader, I’d say the work of Marcus Buckingham on strengths-based leadership, the work of Dave Logan and colleagues on Tribal Leadership, and the work of Stephen M. R. Covey on The Speed of Trust. On the topic of aging, the Blue Zones work of Dan and Nick Buettner.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
Oof. Just one? I guess I’d take a lesson from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and say put the big rocks first. Whatever is most important to you, make time for first in your schedule. For me it’s prayer, dates with my wife and exercise. If you wait until you have free time for the big things, it’ll never happen.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
At this point in 2020, people were still sensitive to how lethal Covid was for older adults, especially those in nursing homes. I guess I wish I’d known then how to keep people focused on the needs of those in nursing homes, because AARP has continued to advocate for adequate staffing levels in those facilities as well as more ways to provide care people need at home instead. For a moment during Covid, it seemed as though society at large was focused on this population, but unfortunately most people have moved on to other things.
When I joined AARP 23 years ago, I thought I’d stick around for a year or two, tops, so predicting my future is not my strong suit. But I love what I do and hope to continue this work for another decade or so.