Since becoming mayor of Hernando, Mississippi, a town of about 15,000 people, Mayor Chip Johnson has been a leading figure in promoting many public health issues throughout the city, including those to promote healthy eating and active living.
Mayor Johnson helped establish a new city parks department that built five major parks and other recreation facilities that enjoy wide use among Hernando residents young and old. He has been influential in making Hernando a more pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly town by passing a Complete Streets policy, requiring every new street to have a sidewalk, and developing miles of new bicycle lanes. Under Mayor Johnson’s leadership, the city is working with local schools on joint-use agreements, which allow school facilities to be open to city residents during non-school hours.
Providing more healthy food options has also been a priority for Mayor Johnson. He helped start the Hernando Farmers’ Market, which is grown into the largest in Mississippi and is regularly ranked one of the most popular in the nation. In addition, Mayor Johnson has worked with local schools through the “Eat Right, Play More” program, which promotes healthier foods in the cafeteria and vending machine, extra recess time, and Safe Routes to School projects to help students safely walk or bike to and from school. The school district is now home to twelve Project Fit America playgrounds.
His efforts led the Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation to name Hernando as the “Healthiest Hometown in Mississippi” in 2010, a designation accompanied by a $50,000 grant for health and wellness activities. In addition, he has been recognized as a national spokesperson for obesity prevention initiatives and was one of two mayors invited to kick off First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign. In 2013, Mayor Johnson received the Leadership for Healthy Communities’ Childhood Obesity Prevention Award.