Columbia Center manager named 2016 Tri-Citian of the Year

For nearly three decades, Barbara Johnson, the manager of Columbia Center mall, has been giving back to the Tri-Cities.

And on April 21, Johnson received a huge thank you from the community when she was named the 2016 Tri-Citian of the Year during the annual banquet at the Three Rivers Convention Center.

Johnson was nominated for the award by Ron and Joan Hue and Sondra Wilson, who documented Johnson’s accomplishments, volunteerism and dedication to the community in a five-page, single-space nomination composition.

“We nominators are literally in awe of Barbara Johnson,” they wrote. “With her very demanding management profession and her devotion to her family, we wonder where she finds the personal time to donate to so many Tri-City projects and organizations. However, we hope you will remember that she does find the time and volunteers immeasurable, countless hours and days to big endeavors and intimate, personal projects that have all improve the quality of life in the Tri-Cities.”

Johnson’s time serving on the Kennewick Public Facilities District board of directors has left an indelible mark on the Tri-Cities that will remain in perpetuity. Johnson has served on the KPFD board since its inception in 2001 and has been the secretary for more than a decade.

Very early in her career, she envisioned entertainment and convention venues in the area, hotels, quality restaurants and shopping to attract tourists and provide residents with more options.

“Barbara is always a forward-thinker and has used this talent on the KPFD board to oversee the financing, design and construction of the $20 million Three Rivers Convention Center,” the nominators wrote.

She worked with the board to hire a quality management team and CEO who have successfully marketed the Convention Center and Toyota Center.

She has also pushed for diversity of the Board’s vision for the centers, advocating for a variety of conventions and entertainment that would attract new visitors to the Tri-Cities.

Johnson has been an active Rotarian since 1989, helping the service organization build its Bingo Boulevard and CCR Event Center. Proceeds from Bingo Boulevard are returned to the Tri-Cities to support various community projects.

Johnson was chairman of the Tri-Citian of the Year event from 2010 to 2014, handling corporate sponsorships, reservations and table assignments, coordinating speakers and more.

She also has been a board member, campaign chairperson and board chairman for the United Way of Benton-Franklin Counties.

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Visit Tri-Cities and the Tri-City Economic Council all work tirelessly to advance the Tri-Cities, so it’s no surprise to find that Johnson has also volunteer her time, talent and services to all three organizations as a board member.

Johnson and her husband, Wayne, have contributed and supported many local organizations and nonprofits, including The Friends of Badger Mountain, Domestic Violence Services, March of Dimes, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the REACH, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties, Tri-Cities Prep and Catholic Family Services.

“Whatever projects she adopts, Barbara does a complete job and leads by example,” the nomination form said. “She is a phenomenal organizer, able to envision the big picture of any event, while noting all the miniscule details that are needed to produce a fine, finished project. She trusts and recognizes the talents of other volunteers, allowing them the freedom to get the job done.”

Even in her job, she gives to the community. She offers the Kennewick Police officers a free place in Columbia Center for public safety, and Cooper’s Corner, an interactive place where children can learn about traffic and biking safety. And she supports Tree for Giving in the mall at Christmas.

“For almost three decades Barbara Johnson has bequeathed to all three cities, their populations and our surrounding environment, her greatest gifts: her personal energy, vision, talents, resources and time.

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