Written by The Business Journal Staff
Eric Johnson, Owner
E.R. Johnson Consulting
What I do:
Government and community relations consulting focused on furthering the public policy, public relations and communications goals of our clients.
Bachelor of Science, Organizational Behavior, University of San Francisco. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America.
Married to Pam for 37 years. Our son Adam is married to Dee nee Richter, and our daughter Emily is married to Blake Dudley.
You just retired from AT&T after 38 years. That’s a long time. Tell us a little about your career there, Eric.
I’ve been blessed to work with AT&T and its predecessors — Pacific Telephone, Pacific Bell, and SBC — starting in the years BC (before cellphones). This ranges from Operator Services (remember “number, please?”), to managing call center teams, to opening the company’s first Phone Center retail store in Fresno, to working in outside sales. The last 25+ years have been in the External Affairs organization as executive director for AT&T’s local government relations and community affairs in 12 counties in Central California. In that time my work environment went from one that was completely manual, site specific and paper driven, to today’s workplace that is digital, mobile and online. I have more computing power on my desk today than all of Fresno had when I started 38 years ago.
What will you miss most about working at AT&T, Eric?
Like many others would say, I’ll miss the people I worked with. The company has changed over time, but there is still a spirit of service that exists among employees. I have very clear images of our technicians working after hours in storm conditions to restore service to customers — I think of them as company heroes. I will also miss the community investment work of External Affairs, helping worthwhile organizations, projects and initiatives get off the ground and prosper, raising the economic, educational, and technological levels of this region.
What made you decide to start your own consulting business, Eric?
It’s a logical next step, an opportunity to employ a knowledge base developed by working on public policy issues in the Central Valley for the last two and a half decades.
What sort of clients would be drawn to your services, Eric?
Business, government, education, and non-profit entities needing assistance with public policy, advocacy, and/or strategic outreach to achieve their objectives.
What is the best advice you ever received, Eric?
It’s a quote from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, who said, “You’ve got a life to live. It’s short, at best, so give it all you’ve got. Be kind to your neighbor, he’s having just as much trouble as you are. Trust God, and work hard.”
What are your roots in the Central Valley, Eric?
My roots here are deep. My father’s family is part of the Swedish Colony that settled on the east side of Fresno before the city was founded. My mother’s family is part of the Volga German group that settled on Fresno’s west side in the early 1900s. My wife’s family traces to people who settled in the Millerton area during the Gold Rush period. We’re staying local.
Tell us about some of the causes/organizations you support in the area, Eric.
I’ve been very fortunate to work with some excellent efforts. At the top of my list now are two organizations. The Fresno Compact, a business/education policy roundtable, has launched Fresno Area Strive, part of a national framework creating a cradle-to-career civic infrastructure, currently operating in 100 US cities. Strive holds great promise for driving systemic improvement in educational outcomes for students in the greater Fresno area.
The other is Reading and Beyond, one of the most efficient and effective non-profit organizations I’ve encountered in the last 25 years. Reading and Beyond touches 1,500 children a day in the Fresno area, helping them to read on grade level, and helping adults develop the skills needed for family self-sufficiency (that’s the “Beyond” part). There are many others in the region I could name — the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, 59 Days of Code, UC Merced, the San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and United Women’s Organization in Tulare County are just a few. There is much good underway in our region, but we need to better connect the various efforts to improve outcomes.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Eric?
The very first job I remember getting paid for was a couple of long, hot days picking grapes with my grandparents on my mother’s side. They were people of very modest means, and some years that meant my mother’s family worked the fields in late summer for extra income to buy school clothes. They wanted to teach my sister and me what that was like. I quickly learned several things: What it really meant to labor, what dignity exists in all work and what I didn’t want to do for a living.