Rick Johnson honored as Superior Supervisor

Chief JohnsonCongratulations to Rick Johnson, associate vice chancellor and chief of police, who has received the Superior Supervisor award as part of KU Medical Center's C.A.R.E. employee recognition program

With the job of ensuring an entire campus' safety, you might picture a stern and intimidating chief of police. And while he can be if necessary, Rick is better known for his ability to cultivate a positive work environment by being a good mentor, team builder, barrier remover, and innovator - all traits for which he was nominated. 

"Rick is the best supervisor I've had," wrote his nominator. "He allows his employees to show themselves through their work without micromanaging or interfering, yet he understands when he needs to step in and help out. He's willing to sit down and work with anyone to ensure his/her success, and he promotes a work-life balance. Rick is a hard-working, caring and excellent leader." 

The number one priority of Rick and his team is to maintain a safe environment for students, employees, visitors, and patients. In addition to the KU Police Department, Rick oversees all the different elements of campus and public safety, including parking, landscape services, and emergency management. Although a big responsibility, it's a job that he feels is shouldered by an entire division and not just one person. 

"I have really good people who work for me - people who understand each of their jobs is important," Rick said. "I feel like my staff understands how we support the bigger mission, and they feel like it's a privilege to work here." 

"Chief Johnson has an amazing talent for recruiting outstanding people to his departments," added Steffani Webb, vice chancellor for administration. "And once they are on board, he empowers them, challenges them, and supports their personal and professional growth.  He has created an environment in which his employees thrive and provide exceptional service to our campus."  

With departments so diverse, from parking cashiers to police officers, it's no small feat to create a thriving team atmosphere. Rick is committed to regularly bringing everyone together for team-building activities and employee celebrations, like holiday parties. To support the importance of recognizing good behaviors, like respect, empathy, and dedication, he created the chief's "challenge coin" which he publicly presents to those who have displayed commendable behaviors. 

And while Rick is quick to acknowledge the good work of others, he was humbled and surprised by the Superior Supervisor recognition. 

"I am honored," he said. "There are other people much more deserving of this than me. In law enforcement, we consider ourselves successful if we can do our jobs without being noticed. But it's really neat that we have a program that recognizes all shapes, sizes and levels of employees. This is a great place to work." 

That work we do at the medical center is one reason Rick has been with the university for 30 years. 

"The importance of what we do here is astounding," he said. "We have brilliant people doing amazing things. I like being a small part of that." 

Fun facts about Rick

People are often surprised to hear whom Rick's wife is. He has been married for 34 years to Debra Bluford, a Kansas City actress who has starred in theater shows like Hello, Dolly and Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage. 

Outside work, Rick is intrigued with genealogy and researching his family history. If he could have dinner with one person, deceased or alive, he would pick his paternal great–great–great–grandfather to fill in the genealogy blanks. He was a sheriff in Kentucky and the first of seven generations to serve in law enforcement. 

Rick also enjoys running, restoring cars, and spending time with his children, Jerrod, Justin and Jessica and 6–year–old grandson Coleden. Jerrod and Coleden live in Minneapolis; Justin is in the Navy and just spent three years in Italy; and Jessica, who works part-time in a KU Medical Center lab, will be going to the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. 

C.A.R.E. recognition program
Nominate a colleague for the next Employee of the Quarter (July–September) by Sept. 15. Nominate a manager for the next Superior Supervisor (July–Dec. 2014) by Dec. 15.

Last modified: Jul 31, 2014