Anthony Wayne Johnson will retire as one of the City of Covington’s most treasured employees this month after logging nearly 31 years of service.
The 61-year-old Johnson’s love of the outdoors and skill for angling earned him the moniker “Catfish,” a nickname he has gone by most of his life.
Born and raised in Porterdale, Ga., Catfish spent his first ten years employed by the City of Covington in the Sanitation Department. He then moved to the Street Department where he found his niche cutting grass.
“I love it,” Johnson says of his daily grass cutting routine. “I have cut a lot of grass over the last 20 years. A whole lot of grass.”
Johnson makes sure he picks up any loose trash blowing around before he skillfully trims the area with his string trimmer. Then he climbs aboard his 72 inch-cut Hustler riding mower, personalized with a ‘Catfish’ sticker on the back, and tames the grass jungles of Covington. A leaf blower mounted on his mower allows for any last minute cleanups if needed.
“I started cutting grass with a push mower in the cemeteries in Covington,” Johnson remembers. “To have a mower like I do now is a real upgrade. It makes me thankful for what I have and reminds me of where I started.”
In addition to an endearing personality, Johnson also has a tremendous work ethic that has earned the respect and appreciation of his coworkers and supervisors.
“Catfish has an unbelievable work ethic,” Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said. “He leaves the yard at 8 a.m. and doesn’t return until 4:45 p.m. You will never see him sitting in the shade under a tree, and you know he is doing his job. I have no idea how we will replace his production with one man.”
Assistant Street Manager Keith Murphy and Johnson have worked together for 30 years at the City of Covington and Murphy agrees with Bouchillon’s assessment on Johnson’s dedication for his job.
“Catfish certainly earned his paycheck,” Murphy said. “When I would ask him to do something, I never had to ask twice. I never had to explain anything twice. He was a lot of fun to work with and did an outstanding job. He has been a great friend to me personally and he is going to be sorely missed.”
Accompanying his affection for fishing and cutting grass, Johnson has one other hobby he is passionate about. Johnson likes to walk. Not leisurely saunters for 20 or 30 minutes, but sweat inducing treks at all hours of the day and night.
“I was up at 2 a.m. and walked eight miles this morning,” Johnson proudly exclaims.
Each year the City of Covington participates in a Wellness Challenge to promote healthy lifestyles. Last year’s theme was “Walking for Wellness” and Johnson was immediately tabbed as the man to beat.
Bouchillon recalls a time when he and his wife walked with Johnson.
“My wife Kathy and I were walking with Catfish one day and I was surprised we were ahead of him the whole time,” Bouchillon said. “Later that week I learned from his coworkers he was afraid to pass me because he thought I would fire him. I told him to walk as fast as he wanted and I haven’t been able to keep up with him since.”
Johnson literally walked away from the field of competitors in the challenge, logging 1,219 miles in just three months. That is an average of nearly 14 miles per day or to put that feat into perspective, more than the distance from Covington to Sioux City, Iowa. Johnson beat the second place walker by 400 miles.
“It gives me time to think. It’s peaceful,” Johnson said of walking. “I try to walk at least 100 miles each week.”
May 8, 2015 is Johnson’s last day of employment and true to his character, Johnson isn’t soaking up the accolades on his last day and is worried about things other than himself.
“I am just sorry to those who will miss me cutting grass around the city,” Johnson said apologetically. “I always tried to do a good job for everyone and I am going to miss them more than they miss me, I’m sure.”