Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson sits down 1-on-1 with ABC7's Cheryl Burton

Cheryl Burton Image
Monday, May 15, 2023
Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson sits down 1-on-1 with Cheryl Burton
Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson and ABC7's Cheryl Burton sat down for a one-on-one interview.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Brandon Johnson will officially become Chicago's 57th mayor when he's sworn-in on Monday afternoon.

ABC7 Anchor Cheryl Burton spoke one-on-one with Johnson about his plans to unite the city and build a better, safer and stronger Chicago.

Johnson will be the first Chicago mayor living on the West Side of the city. It's a perspective and unique experience he said will impact his leadership. The husband and father of three got personal about how his family and faith helped guide him and he reveals a lighter side as he ponders the enormity of running the third largest city in the country.

"I'm still tripping a little bit. We actually pulled this off, so it's still sinking in," Johnson said.

Johnson said he has spent his whole life preparing for this monumental moment. Burton met up with him on the fifth floor of his transition headquarters just hours away from his inauguration as the 57th mayor of Chicago. It will be the fifth floor of City Hall where the transformation of legacy will be cemented in history.

Johnson is reminded of what President Joe Biden told him during their first meeting in Selma, Alabama, commemorating Bloody Sunday.

"I'll never forget, and, he said, 'mayor of Chicago,' he said, 'the job is harder than mine.' And, he said, 'primarily, people know where you live, and they can access you at home,' but he also said, 'local government is one of the most powerful ways in which you can influence daily lives of individuals.' Here is no greater or faster way to do that, and I appreciate his advice."

Johnson said he will use that advice as he tries to navigate the challenging and daunting task of tackling many issues facing this city. The mayor-elect went to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with lawmakers to help him secure funding and assurances that he has support, on a higher level, that aid his agenda.

Burton asked Johnson if he has a plan to address the influx of migrants coming to Chicago.

"I don't want the people of Chicago, and particularly Black Chicago, to feel that they are not seen or heard. It's important that we remain a welcoming city. And, so, in other words, we have to make sure that we are providing support for our family, and for our families, and those who wish to call the city of Chicago their home," Johnson responded.

Burton also asked Johnson what he thinks is the biggest misconception about him.

"I believe some people have seen my body of work over the course of my career as a teacher, as an organizer, Cook County commissioner. They've made some assumptions about my priorities, and somehow, that means they are excluded, and that's not who I am," Johnson said.

Johnson said he learned compassion and grace from his parents, and they have been an inspiration even in the darkest times. The chaos and crime at the hands of young people has been unsettling and disheartening for the former youth pastor and father of three children.

He has this message for young people set on breaking the law and creating a sense of fear and instability around the city: "I love you. I see you. I hear you. I value you, and knock it off."

Johnson also spoke about his plans to ensure that the people of Chicago are safe.

"It's a layered plan. I mean, it certainly is going to require that law enforcement have hyper-concentration in the areas or throughout the city of Chicago, where there is a greater propensity for violence to take place. But, we also have to make sure that we're including our faith community, out violence interrupters our business community," Johnson said.

Johnson said it was his own teenage son who made him realize his the impact of his election. He recalled his son's words.

"'Dad, before you make your announcement, I need a little time to adjust,' because, he said, 'I need to know who is real in my life,'" Johnson said.

Johnson said he is grateful for his family's love and support, especially his wife of 25 years, Stacie, who he describes as his confidant and compass. She will represent Chicago as his partner in the city that shaped his life.

"Here's the part of that that we're really excited about, and maybe trippin' about a little bit at the same time: We hadn't realized that my wife made history. And, so, she will be the first Black first lady in the history of Chicago. She looked me in the face and said, 'you may have won, but I made history,'" Johnson said.

On Monday, during ABC7's special coverage of the inauguration, Johnson will address the pressing issues facing the city on day one, and what he thinks it will take to be a successful mayor.

ABC7 Chicago will have full live coverage of Johnson's inauguration on Monday starting at 10 a.m. You can also watch it on our website, news app or wherever you stream.