When one meets Elesha Johnson, Parsippany's new municipal clerk, one encounters a wave of positivity and good feeling.
Even Mayor James Barberio says so.
"There is just something about her," he said. "We knew it from the moment we met her at the interview for the position. This is a special woman and she is going to bring something special to this town."
Business Administrator Janice Lim agrees that Johnson is a lovely person.
People in Parsippany, she said, "will really like and enjoy her."
Naturally, Johnson waves all that away.
"Those nice words just tell me what I already suspected," said Elesha Johnson, 50. "I am going to be working with some special people."
Johnson starts her job as town clerk on August 1 at a pay rate of $75,000 per year.
She is well aware that she has big shoes to fill.
"It's clear that [recently retired clerk of 30 years] Judy Silver did a lot for Parsippany and means a lot to Parsippany," Johnson said. "She is going to come here for a couple of days to shadow me when I begin. That is such a generous thing for her to help me out. I hope I can keep up her tradition of excellent service."
She will do just that if she continues her own tradition of providing of excellent service.
"Being in Camden for 17 years, I put a lot in there and we were able to accomplish some wonderful things," she said. "I'm a spiritual person and a positive person and I really believe you get out of something whatever you put into it."
After a background working for the departments of the Army and Navy and for the Department of Justice, Johnson was hired as a data processing programmer and then senior data processing programmer for the City of Camden 17 years ago. In 2004, she became the city's deputy municipal clerk and alternate registrar--big and busy jobs, considering Camden's population of more than 77,000 residents.
In time, Johnson realized she was ready and willing to take on the challenge of handling her own municipality.
"I loved being a deputy clerk, and leaving Camden is a big decision, but I'm ready to handle my own municipality. I knew it had to be Parsippany when I came in for the interview and met Mayor Barberio and the staff," she said. "They and the council members were all so kind and welcoming and made me feel right at home. I knew this was the place for me."
Mayor Barberio made a similar statement.
"Right from the beginning it was obvious that she was the one," he said. "Elesha just clicked with everyone. I know she will do an excellent job for the people of Parsippany-Troy Hills."
Johnson said she is a big believer in living in the town in which one works, so she and her husband now are looking to buy a home in or near Parsippany.
"I am very lucky that my husband is so supportive of my goals," she said.
Johnson's number one priority, of course, is her family. Married for 30 years to her high school sweetheart Rowland, she is mother to their two children, both now grown: Esha, a military veteran who's now a married mom, and Brandon, a registered medical assistant.
"I am endlessly proud of my family," she said.
Interesting fact about Johnson: She hails from Indianapolis, Ind., and graduated from Broad Ripple High School, which produced late night talk host David Letterman and former "Today Show" anchor Jane Pauley. (Being a bit younger than both Letterman and Pauley, she said she has not had the privilege of meeting either of them.)
Johnson's new job will keep her busy. Among the clerk's duties are: serving as secretary to the town council; administering elections; handling and overseeing licensing for pets, bingo games, raffles, even liquor (the council decides who gets them); maintaining the filing system of all ordinances and resolutions; keeping records for municipality; managing public-record requests and much more.
"Municipal clerk is one of the funcitions a town or city or borough must have under statute," Johnson said, noting that the others are post office, tax collector and tax assessor. "This is an important job, and I take it seriously."
At the same time, she said she feels no nervousness at all.
"I don't feel as if I am under any undue pressure," said Johnson. "And the mayor and the council recognize my abilities. They've made me feel like they are excited about me coming to Parsippany. That means the world. It makes me even more excited. I can't wait to get started."