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Longtime Ellery Supervisor still has passion for job

Ellery Town Supervisor Arden Johnson, second from left, is pictured with Robert Freeburg, John Cresanti and Sherri McCall in September 2020 during a dedication at the Ellery Town Park. Johnson has been supervisor for several decades. File Photo

ELLERY — Ellery Town Supervisor Arden Johnson, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, is believed to be the oldest and longest tenured town supervisor in New York state.

Johnson graduated from Brocton Central School in 1949 and has a past filled with dedication to public service and local politics. In 1948, Johnson originated the Young Republican Club in the town of Portland.

From 1955 to 1957, he served as Brocton fire chief and served on the village board from 1957 to 1960.

Johnson moved to the Ellery area in 1964 as a result of his employment in Jamestown. Throughout the years, he was involved in multiple organizations including youth recreation, Little League and Babe Ruth baseball and was one of the founders of midget football — all of which are very active at Ellery Town Park.

In 1972, after becoming involved with local politics, he decided he would run for the position of Ellery town supervisor. He found success and has been holding his position ever since. In 1980, Johnson was elected a Chautauqua County legislator where he served until 1983.

Pictured is Arden Johnson’s certificate from the Liberty Award he received in 2012 recognizing his restless dedication to the betterment of his community. Photo by Nikk Holland

“There was a couple people that were in charge of the party that advised me that I couldn’t run (for town supervisor),” Johnson said. “So, being the person I am, I decided I’m going to, and I did.”

Throughout his long-lasting career as supervisor, Johnson has been involved with various different projects and statutes, and he takes exceptional pride in a few of those.

“When I took the oath to have this job, I swore that I’d be honest and truthful, and swore that I’d do everything I could for the taxpayer,” he said. “And over the years I’ve tried to this.”

Many local residents are familiar with the beautiful Ellery Town Park, and Johnson is very honored to have had a direct impact on the park’s origin.

“Another thing that brings me great honor as town supervisor is our town park,” Johnson said. “I would say that is probably one of the nicest parks in New York state.”

Along with the 20 acres of land, close to a mile of walking track, two tennis courts, three baseball fields, football fields, a number of soccer fields, two picnic pavilions and a park for younger kids is a veteran’s memorial, and on May 30, 2005, the park and memorial was dedicated by Johnson and the town board.

Being known as the state’s oldest and longest tenured town supervisor is important to Johnson.

“It means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “The good Lord has taken care of me, and I try to live a good life. I have a great family and I have great friends in this community. I have tried to do my best over the years and I feel that I have been successful.”

He must be doing something right.

“Be honest, faithful and true to your community,” Johnson answered when asked what message he’d like to send to the next generation of local government position holders.

“You have to be honest. That’s one of the problems with our higher level of government: people aren’t truthful anymore,” he said.

In 2012, Johnson received the Liberty Award from then state Sen. Cathy Young, the highest honor the New York State Senate can administer which recognizes his immense dedication to the betterment of his community. He praises this as one of his greatest moments as town supervisor of Ellery.

“That’s an honor to have an award from a senator in the state of New York, and I’m very proud of that,” he said.

At 90 years old, some may think retirement is the next step for Johnson, but he has other plans.

“Well, it’s funny you ask that,” Johnson said. “I am going to run one more term, and in the future, somewhere along the line, I will be retiring if good health stays with me.”

Johnson also offered some wise words of advice.

“In order to be successful in life you have to have people around you that you can trust and work with,” Johnson said. “I have a town clerk, court clerk, assessor and code enforcement officer that all do a great job. My theory is if you have a leadership position, you hire people around you that you know are good — that are as good as you or better — and they’ll take care of you. It’s good to know that I can leave and its all taken care of.”

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