Kristofer Johnson, a veteran of heading chambers of commerce and of leading transportation and other economic-development initiatives, takes the reins of Washington's largest business advocacy group today.
As the new president of the Association of Washington Business, Johnson succeeds Don Brunell, who retired after leading the Olympia-based organization for 28 years.
As Johnson, 40, takes over the AWB, Brunell heads to Gordon Thomas Honeywell Government Affairs, a consultancy with offices in Tacoma, Seattle and Washington, D.C. As a vice president for the firm, Brunell will provide government affairs and communications services to business clients.
Meanwhile, Johnson said transportation, along with workers' compensation and regulatory reforms, remain among the AWB's top legislative priorities. It's the organization's "challenge and opportunity to work with both sides of the aisle to find those common-sense solutions that will provide certainty and predictability" for businesses, Johnson said.
Another issue to watch is the wave of baby boomer retirements, Johnson said, which makes it important to train the next generation of skilled workers. "The reality is, these are really uncertain times," he said.
A succession committee of the AWB, which has more than 8,100 members, selected Johnson after a nationwide search.
Johnson "brings a strong blend of chamber and legislative experience here in Washington," wrote Mel Russell, chairman of the AWB's board and former CEO of Charter Title Corp. in Vancouver, in a news release. Johnson, who joined the AWB in 2010 as vice president of operations, is "someone who understands the challenges and opportunities for AWB in the coming years," Russell added.
Johnson has more than 15 years of experience leading chambers of commerce. Before he joined the AWB, Johnson served as president of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce in Minnesota, where he led several key initiatives including a bistate coalition to support transportation improvements.
There, Johnson was part of the Twin Cities leadership team that helped secure funding for reconstruction of the I-35 W Mississippi River Bridge. In 2007, the bridge collapsed suddenly during the evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others.
Before leading the Saint Paul Chamber in Minnesota, Johnson led the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce in Kennewick, where he served on the AWB board. He was also a program manager for public affairs at the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce.