2018-04-13 / Front Page

Rock of Olympia retiring

By Josh Cruse

Bob Johnson of Vulcan Materials and president of We Are Olympia 
Photo by Josh Cruse Bob Johnson of Vulcan Materials and president of We Are Olympia Photo by Josh Cruse Former We Are Olympia president Bob Johnson is retiring from Vulcan Materials later in the spring.

Johnson began at Vulcan as a foreman, before moving to the Dreyfus quarry in North Columbia to become plant manager. He returned to Vulcan in 2009.

Prior to Vulcan taking over the quarry, the relationship between the residents and those working at the quarry was not good. Johnson, who worked for Tarmac the quarry’s previous owner, remembers quarry trucks driving through the neighborhood and disrupting life for the residents.

When Vulcan took over, Johnson said, the company spent millions of dollars constructing a road alongside the Congaree River for the trucks to travel.

“ Vulcan came in with the attitude that we are part of the community, and if we need to do something to make our relationship better, we are going to listen to the neighbors. That’s what they did,” Johnson said.

Johnson was a member of the Olympia Community Education Foundation and served as president of the We Are Olympia neighborhood association May 2015– September 2017 taking over for longtime president Jim Jaco.

One of Johnson’s first jobs was to plan an event to recognize Jim Jaco, longtime president of We Are Olympia.

“Jim did a lot for the community,” Johnson said. “He raised a lot of money for the organization. He met with local politicians and knew local law enforcement. He did an awesome job.”

The result was Jim Jaco Day. It was organized by Darla Oldham, who worked with Johnson at Vulcan. Jim Jaco Day was held March 12, 2016.

Johnson also helped create a mentorship program with the Olympia Learning Center. One male and one female student were selected and taught about quarry work from vendors and employees.

He also helped with quarry tours. Johnson estimated between 60 to 65 tours were given each year to students of all ages as well as individuals from the community.

Johnson was a vital part in starting the Quarry Crusher Run. The idea began at an Olympia Community Education Foundation meeting. Richard Burts of the Five Points Association suggested the foundation look for different ways to generate more interest in the Olympia Festival, held every spring. Burts contacted Jamie Lomas, who helped coordinate the St. Patrick’s Day run in Five Points. When Johnson met with Lomas, he took her on a tour of the quarry.

“I never thought in my wildest dream we would be approved to run down the quarry. We were looking at running the exterior down River road, down Rosewood, down Olympia, and back to the quarry,” Johnson said.

Not only did the race idea get approved, but Vulcan also supported it. There are now Quarry Crusher races held in Atlanta, San Antonio, San Diego, Birmingham, and Nashville.

The 2018 race is scheduled for Saturday, April 14. It began with 175 runners. This year Johnson is hoping to top 1,000. The race, originally just a 5k, has expanded to a 10k and a 15k. Currently, 25 people are signed up for the 15k.

Johnson credits the success of the race to Lomas’s marketing and promotion and Vulcan’s continued support.

Vulcan Materials has received a lot of recognition lately, all under Johnson’s watch. In 2015, the quarry received the President’s Award for Quarry of the Year for the Southeast Division of Vulcan. In 2016, i t received the President’s Award for Safety for the Southeast Division of Vulcan. Just a couple of weeks ago, the quarry celebrated reaching one million man hours without an accident. Johnson credits the workers for those achievements.

One of Johnson’s proudest moments at the quarry came in October 2015. Just two days after the flood, Vulcan worked with City of Columbia officials and was able to transport tons of rock to help repair the Columbia Canal. Vulcan also supplied rock to repair dams around Columbia and Lexington County.

“We did it without incident or accident,” Johnson said. “I think it was a great success as far as teamwork between the City of Columbia, truckers, salesmen here, and the community.”

Johnson began to contemplate retirement last year. He stepped down from his role as We Are Olympia president in September and after a lot of consideration, made his announcement to retire from Vulcan.

“It was a personal decision,” Johnson said. “I turned 63 in January, and I actually went to church and prayed about it. It was just time.”

Johnson’s last day working at Vulcan will be Monday, April 30, although his official last day will be June 1.

Johnson’s work has meant a lot to longtime residents in the community. At the March We Are Olympia meet ing, some expressed concerns about whether they will see him or not after he retires. Johnson said he will be around.

“I’m sure they’ll see me again. I will never ever forget Vulcan. I will never ever forget the community. I’m sure I’ll be back,” Johnson said. “Even after I retire, I’m here for my people in the community. If they need me to do anything, Vulcan or the community, I’ll be glad to still do it.”

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