William A Johnson, Jr. has amassed a variety of important skills and experiences during a professional career that has spanned 47 years, as a college professor, agency executive, elected official, and involved citizen. He has been a designer and implementer of transformational government and social service programs involving public-private funding, an advocate for economic and social justice, a trailblazer for racial equality, an ardent proponent of quality education for all children regardless of their neighborhood of residence, an architect for citizen engagement in all spheres of community life, a leader of voluntary organizations and programs, a writer and thinker on important socio-economic issues, a much sought-after public speaker, and a trusted mentor to many aspiring young professionals and civic leaders.

Employment History

Founder and sole owner, Strategic Community Intervention LLC (successor to co-owned JK Innovative Solutions, founded in 2012), Rochester NY

 A consulting practice that engages with key urban constituencies around competing and conflicting issues that can effectively be resolved through third party objective and unfettered counsel and advice. Utilizing the skills of mediation, fact-finding, community analytics, and collaborative planning, our services fall into two main categories:

  • Timely analysis, counsel and advice, and strategizing, prior to implementing a public decision
  • Corrective intervention, and appropriate strategic re-design, to enable fiscal integrity and public confidence in urban matters.

The firm brings fresh eyes and strategic analysis to tackle the thorny issues confronting urban areas borne out of experience with comparable situations.

Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Urban Studies, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester NY, January 1, 2006 through June 30, 2013 (retirement date)

Joint tenured faculty position in the STS/ Public Policy department and the Urban and Community Studies program in the Sociology/ Anthropology Department in the College of Liberal Arts. Courses taught in urban planning and policy, community economic development, contemporary public policy issues, and public administration. Research, writing and public speaking has been focused in the areas of local government reform, citizen engagement, and the revitalization of economically distressed older industrial cities in the northeastern and midwestern U.S. cities. Served as the Coordinator of the Urban and Community Studies program, and interim chairperson of the STS/Public Policy department. Developed student internship positions with local governments and not-for-profit agencies.

Minett Professor (1993-94), Rochester Institute of Technology One year endowed professorship bringing non-academic community professionals to campus to teach classes in their field of specialization and working with students.This appointment coincided with my election as Mayor.

Mayor of Rochester, New York (January 1, 1994 through December 31, 2005)Elected as the 64th Mayor and chief administrative officer in November 1993, by popular vote, of New York’s third largest city with a population of 231,000 people. This was a historic election on several fronts, making him Rochester’s first African American mayor, and the first African-American to be elected Mayor of any Upstate city.  He was also one of a handful of African-American mayors to be elected in a city with a majority white population at the time. He was re-elected in 1997 without opposition in the primary or general election, and re-elected to a third term in 2001, with 71% of the vote. He announced at the time that he would not seek re-election to a fourth term. The city had an operating budget of $425 million and employed in excess of 3,000 full time employees. Rochester was cited by bonding agencies as the best fiscally managed city in upstate New York throughout his tenure.

President and CEO, The Urban League of Rochester, NY (December 1, 1972 through December 31, 1993)

 Assumed helm of an organization that was on the brink of closure, and transformed it into one of the largest and most respected not-for-profit human services organizations in the greater Rochester region. At the time of his appointment, the agency operated five programs on a budget of $545,000. About 75% of that funding came from one source, the United Way. By the time of his departure, there were 29 programs operating on an annual $4.5 million budget, with less than 25% provided by the United Way. The Rochester League, one of 115 affiliates operating in 39 states and the District of Columbia, was one of only four that received $1 million or more from the United Way, the other three being New York, Chicago, and St. Louis. Under his leadership, the League also became a Community Planning Agency, and issued several major reports, as well as leading community-wide dialogue, on areas of social policy.

Deputy Executive Director, The Urban League of Flint, Michigan (April 1, 1971 through November 30, 1972)

Served as the second-in-command and chief program evaluator for an agency which operated programs in job placement, housing counseling, apprenticeship training, and educational services in Flint and five other Michigan cities.

Director, The National Urban League Voter Registration Project in Flint (June 1972 through November 1972)

 The Flint affiliate was one of several selected by the National Urban League to run a demonstration project to register voters for the 1972 national and local elections. The Flint project was unique, in that it tracked the   more than 3300 persons it registered, recorded if they had moved from their place of residence, and contacted them on Election Day to insure that they voted. Prior to his decision to relocate to Rochester, Johnson had developed plans to maintain regular communications with these new voters and to urge their participation in local government decisions.

Instructor of Political Science, Genesee Community College (now Mott Community College), Flint, Michigan (September 1967 through August 1971)

 Taught courses in American National Government. Designed and introduced two new courses in the curriculum on the topics of African-American history and civil liberties. Awarded tenure in June 1970.

Legislative Analyst, National Highway Users Association, Washington DC (December 1966 through August 1967)

 Monitored federal highway and transit safety legislation for a trade association; compiled daily digests on transportation-related issues for dissemination to membership; regularly attended and reported on congressional hearings.

Notable Career Accomplishments

 At Rochester Institute of Technology

Directed graduate student research on two projects:

  1. An assessment of a Regional Jail Facility for four counties (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming), 2008
  2. An analysis of the citizen engagement component of the Rochester Children’s Zone planning initiative (2010)

At the City of Rochester

Lead the creation and implementation of several innovative programs:

1) Neighbors Building Neighborhoods (NBN) – a process of citizen empowerment and neighborhood-based planning, which fully engaged citizens in a partnership with City Hall in every level of decision-making involving their neighborhoods.

2) The Neighborhood Empowerment Teams (NET) – neighborhood-based mini-City Halls, where police and civilian code enforcement officers are assigned to work directly with citizens to resolve quality-of-life issues in a timely and efficient manner.

3) Community Oriented Policing – instituting a series of initiatives which improved police-community relations, especially in the African-American community, and motivated a number of collaborative efforts between citizens and police to substantially reduce crime and violence in neighborhoods.

4) Community Economic Development – led negotiations to restore business and commercial activities to inner-city neighborhoods. One of the most significant ventures was a five-store deal with Tops Markets, Inc. to bring major supermarkets into disinvested neighborhoods, reversing a flight trend that began in the 1980’s; worked for the creation of several community and faith-based Community Development Corporations (CDC), which partnered with the city to create new residential and commercial projects.

5) Waterfront Revitalization Projects – building on a strategic plan developed by his predecessor, focused on revitalizing Rochester’s waterfront. There are three major waterways in the city: the Genesee River, the Erie Canal, and Lake Ontario. Many new waterfront trails were constructed, and several mixed-used projects were built in High Falls, Corn Hill and Genesee-Brooks. In preparation for the Rochester to Toronto ferry service, which was launched in 2004, more than $75 million in infrastructure improvements were completed at the Port of Rochester. Even though the Ferry venture did not meet expectations, these improvements have established a foundation for future development of the Port area.

6) The Rochester 2010 plan – In 1998 the city implemented – with the active participation of over 3,000 citizens – a bold blueprint which set forth essential strategies to revitalize the entire city by the year 2010. It was the city’s first new Comprehensive Master Plan in 34 years, and one of the few in the nation which was not essentially a land-use plan. Rochester 2010 identified strategies to address public school reform, public safety improvements, housing and commercial development, improved youth services, and regional cooperation.

7) Metropolitan Governance – one of his major campaign pledges in 1993 was to work for metropolitan solutions without metropolitan government. This was in recognition of the failure to achieve metropolitan government in the 1970’s and 1980’s. After several years of trying, he came to the conclusion that the city’s problems were implacable, and in 2001, he called for the consolidation of the city and county government. This became the major issue in his race for County Executive in 2003, leading to his defeat by forces determined to derail such an idea.

8) The Bi-Racial Partnerships – a program designed to improve racial understanding in the community through matching people of different races and economic status, who agreed to engage in on-going dialogue, participation in structured group discussions, and a willingness to implement a model of this program in their own organizations. After the September 11, 2001 devastation, a separate partnership linking people from Islamic and non-Islamic countries was started. These programs continue, and have been replicated in other communities.

9) Sister City program – Established two new Sister Cities in Hamamatsu, Japan (1996) and Puerto Plata,   Dominican Republic (1997), increasing to 10 the number of Sister City relationships with the City. Began the negotiations with Xianyang, China.

At the Urban League of Rochester

Lead the creation and implementation of several major initiatives:

1)      The Salute to Black Scholars — started a program in the 1979-80 school year with the intent to recognize academically talented high school graduates. 58 graduates from Rochester city high schools were recognized at a luncheon. From this modest beginning, the program has grown over the past 33 years to recognize more than 5,000 graduates throughout the metropolitan region, and the awarding of an estimated $100 million in scholarships from area universities, businesses and fraternal organizations. Over 30 organizations annually present scholarships through this program.

2)     The Black Scholars Endowment Fund – founded in 1987, with $1 million raised from the local community,   the annual earnings of this fund are used to grant emergency financial aid to deserving college students.

3)      The Urban League Economic Development Corporation – a not-for-profit subsidiary formed in 1986, based on sabbatical research, this entity has constructed hundreds of new and renovated affordable housing for first-time homeowners, as well as residential units for persons with developmental disabilities.

4)      The Education Initiative/Call to Action – launched in 1985 as a community-wide campaign to improve the quality of education for all Rochester school children. This was Mr. Johnson’s first endeavor to initiate community-wide citizen participation in a reform agenda, and this campaign was widely credited with sparking major efforts to change the academic direction of the city schools. This is an on-going program.

5)      The Campaign to Reduce Racial Polarization – launched in 1991 after a citizen-led planning initiative coordinated by the League, more than 10,000 citizens signed a pledge to work for the elimination of racism in the greater Rochester area.

6)      Staff development – The ULR consistently sought the most talented staff that could be assembled, many of them just out of college or graduate school, and provided them with opportunities to improve their knowledge and gain valuable work experience. As a result, nine of the staff hired by Mr. Johnson have become CEOs of Urban League affiliates or other not-for-profits, at least two have become distinguished academicians, and one a highly successful businessman and employer.

Notable Volunteer Engagements


    • Board Chair, The Center for Community Progress, Washington DC
    • Trustee, Colgate Rochester Divinity School, Rochester NY
    • Board member and former Chair, Public Policy Committee, National Industries for the Blind, Alexandria, VA
    • Board Member, Lifetime Assistance (home care and hospice provider), Rochester NY
    • Advisory Council for African-American services, Alzheimer’s Association, Rochester NY
    • Co- Chair, African-American Landmarks Advisory Council, Landmark Society of Western NY


      • Board Chair, New Futures Initiative, Rochester NY, 1991-1993 (funded through the Annie E. Casey Foundation)
      • Board Chair, Partners for a Livable Community, Washington DC, 2002-2005
      • Chair, New York State Employment and Training Council, Albany, NY, 1979-83 (by appointment of Governor Hugh Carey)
      • Chair, Howard Wilson Coles Society, United Way of Rochester, 2009-12
      • Commissioner, New York State Local Government Efficiency and Competiveness Commission, Albany NY, 2007-08, (appointed by Governor Elliot Spitzer)
      • Member, Transition Committee for Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, New York  NY, 2010
      • Trustee, Monroe Community College, Rochester NY, 1976-1982
      • Trustee and Chair, Smart Growth and Regionalism Task Force, U.S. Conference of Mayors
      • Board member, Smart Growth America, Washington DC
      • Chair, National League of Cities Task Force on Community and Regional Development
      • Executive Committee, New York State Conference of Mayors
      • Chair, Resolutions Committee, National Conference of Black Mayors
      • Trustee, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
      • Member, New York State Board of Social Work, 1988-1993
      • Board of Trustees, Michigan Civil Liberties Union
      • President, New York State Council of Urban Leagues
      • President, Eastern Regional Council of Urban League Executives
      • Governing board, Excellus, Inc., Rochester NY
      • Board member, The Center for Governmental Research, Rochester NY
      • Board member, Eltrex Industries, Inc., Rochester NY

Awards and Citations (partial listing)

Four honorary doctorates awarded by: Keuka College (1990), St. John Fisher College (1998), Rochester Institute of Technology (1999), University of Rochester (2006)

  • Alumni Distinguished Post-Graduate Achievement, Howard University, Washington DC (2003)
  • Public Official of the Year, GOVERNING Magazine, Washington DC (1999)
  • Recognition for Distinguished Career Achievement, Nelson A. Rockefeller College, at the State University of New York at Albany (2006)
  • Whitney M. Young Distinguished Service Award, National Urban League. 1994

Educational Background and Personal information

B.A., political science, Howard University, Washington DC  (1965)

M.A., political science (concentration in constitutional law), Howard University, 1967

Born: Lynchburg, VA, (1942)

Graduate (with high honors), Dunbar High School, Lynchburg, VA (1960)

Memberships: Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Rochester NY; Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Gamma Iota Boule (former Sire Archon); Eureka Lodge # 36, Prince Hall Masons, Rochester NY

Father of three, grandfather of six, great-grandfather of two