“You don’t deal with the general public the way you would deal with yourself.”
—Jerry N. Johnson, WASA general manager, Feb. 10
The biggest story of 2004 made a second splashdown in 2009, when a public health study determined that waterborne lead discovered in city pipes five years ago may have been much more dangerous than anyone warned at the time. Johnson, who ran the Water and Sewer Authority then, was dragged before the D.C. Council, where overseer Jim Graham asked Johnson whether he’d allow his own child to drink potentially dangerous water. Johnson, never known for his PR acumen, took issue with the question, responding with the above retort. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty proceeded with a behind-the-scenes campaign to oust Johnson from his management post; he finally succeeded in September. Replacing Johnson was one of Fenty’s best cabinet appointees: George Hawkins of the city environmental department. Johnson’s now out in the ‘burbs, running the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.