Dunlap residents are mourning after the town's 46-year-old vice mayor, Jeff B. Johnson, died Monday from an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
Johnson, a member of the city commission for more than a decade, was first elected in 2007 and was appointed to the position of vice mayor in September 2012.
He was working on the family farm early Monday when he was stung by a bee, Dunlap Mayor Dwain Land said Tuesday morning. Johnson, who was allergic to bees, was rushed by family members to the Erlanger Sequatchie Valley emergency room, but he didn't survive.
"The whole town's heartbroken," Land said.
"He was a great man, but he was also a great father, a great husband and a great man of the community," said Land, who in a Facebook post on his colleague's death, called Johnson the "perfect Vice Mayor."
The mayor also noted the work Johnson and his father, Jan, have done to reinvigorate youth league football in the community.
Land counts Johnson's death personal loss, he said.
"We weren't only connected in the official city capacity," Land said, "he was a great friend of mine. I've been fishing on Lake Eerie with him. He was a lifelong family friend."
Dunlap Fire Chief Norman Hatfield remembered Johnson as "a big supporter of the fire department. You could always go to Jeff and talk to him about anything. He was easy to talk to and to work with," he said in a post on the department's Facebook page.
Fire officials noted his community involvement and unrelenting support.
The fire department post continued, "Vice Mayor Johnson firmly believed in community service, spending many hours with local charities and coaching football. He was a recurring cast member in the annual Cancer Society production of Hee Haw, and was very active in the Dunlap First Baptist Church congregation. Vice Mayor Johnson supported all of the volunteer fire departments 100%, and did whatever he could to assist them in their mission."
Dunlap firefighters expressed their "deepest sympathy" for the Johnson family.
Officers at the Dunlap Police Department were equally shaken.
"Jeff was a dedicated public servant who served our community in many different ways," a post on the police department's Facebook reads.
Members of the community pointed to his genuine, open nature.
"Jeff helped me many times at the bank in at the end of our conversation when I shook his hand I didn't worry about paper work cause that mans hand shake was 100% real ever time," Dewayne Moore wrote in one post.
"I worked with Jeff in hee Haw for several years..his wit, faith and love for Dunlap were second to none," Steve Aldrich wrote, mentioning the annual comedy cancer benefit he and many others enjoyed as participants.
Land also wrote in his post about Johnson's leadership in the community.
"He seemed to truly enjoy putting in the hard work when necessary," Land wrote. "He always did an outstanding job and had a vision for Dunlap's future that showed his love for his hometown."
Just a few weeks after he became the city commission's then-youngest member at 35, Johnson talked about why he wanted to serve the public in a question and answer interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in June 2007.
"I feel like sometimes there are younger people in the community that need to step forth and kind of take the reins from the older group," Johnson said in 2007 of his decision to run for office. "I feel like there is a need for positive youth leadership in this county and that's what I stand for, and that's the reason I ran."
The things others saw as his best qualities at the time of his death, Johnson saw as his strengths as a member of the commission and community as he looked ahead in 2007.
"I do not have any problems getting along with anyone," he said. "I'm a very laid-back person, so getting along with someone that's got a problem that could be a heated issue is not a problem for me. Knowing the people of this community and being raised here, people know me and and they feel comfortable talking with me about any issues they might have."