NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — On week one as Nashville’s first Community Safety Coordinator, Ron Johnson says it’s about gaining trust and listening to the concerns of neighborhoods across the city.
For the next couple of weeks, Johnson will host listening parties across the Metro and invite anyone wanting to be heard.
“If we don’t listen, how can we have any answers for anything,” Johnson said.
Most importantly, he wants people to know he is committed to making every community a safer place. If that means involving the city or Metro Nashville Police in the conversation, Johnson says his responsibility is to be your advocate.
“I’m not here to tell you about how smart I am and all the answers that I have, I’m here to let you know that I care,” Johnson said.
As a former youth mentor at the Martha O’Bryan Center and then Metro Nashville Parks, Johnson focused his attention on helping young people avoid violence.
He later worked to create the Aggressors, Victims, and Bystanders curriculum used in Metro Schools, before starting the StreetSolid nonprofit for people leaving prison.
Johnson’s experience may have got him the job, but he says his past is what helps people feel comfortable sharing their own stories.
Johnson is the 5th of 10 boys and a former Tennessee State University football standout. He had dreams of playing in the NFL and had the talent to back it up.
He remembers how one Saturday, he had the best game of his career. He bragged to his mother later that night, that soon he would get her anything she wanted.
“She said baby, I don’t want any of that stuff. Be my first son to graduate from college and I’ll be the happiest mom in the whole wide world,” Johnson said.
Three days later and Johnson got the call back home in Memphis that his mother was killed.
“That changed my life forever,” Johnson said.
From that point on, football was far less the priority. Johnson finished his degree and dedicated his life to helping others. For Johnson, that starts with honest and thoughtful conversations with all corners of the Metro.
“The thing that needs to be tackled is listening. Going into the community and not saying that I have the answers or I have what you need, but I’m here to listen. To know what you need,” Johnson said.
The goal is a much safer Nashville. Mayor John Cooper made this one of his priorities as part of a $3 million commitment to improving public safety.
It’s a dream job for Johnson and a new way to help. Now that you know some of his stories, he hopes you can share yours.