“A man does not climb a mountain without bringing some of it away with him, and leaving something of himself upon it.”
– Martin Conway, 1st Baron Conway of Allington
By Jared Mendenhall
In September, Deputy Director Brad Johnson will strap on a backpack and head out into the Bridger-Teton National Forest. This won’t be a unique activity for the avid outdoorsman, but it will mark an important change in his life. After 35 years with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Brad will retire at the end of April.
The trip into the Tetons is the first on a long list of adventures he has planned. But don’t call it a bucket list. He’s the first to tell you, It’s just a list. His first 4-5 months of retirement are slated for different treks throughout the West—Tetons, West Rim Trail, Zions. Then, he will head to Greece.
When speaking with Brad, one can sense the deep love he has for Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), its employees and the importance of its mission. This love for DEQ is on full display as he recalls starting with the State of Utah in the 1980s and what he calls, “the heyday of Superfund.”
Brad’s first job after graduating with a master’s degree from Brigham Young University in 1983 was as a staff scientist doing RCRA inspections and working on Superfund investigations. Superfund, as most DEQ employees know, is the United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances. During the ‘80s with the passage of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), funds were abundant to address blighted sites across the country (Approximately 70 percent of these funds are paid by the parties responsible).
For a kid who loved being outside, Brad was in heaven doing this type of work. It showed, too. Brad quickly moved up the ranks at DEQ becoming a Section Manager, then a Branch Manager and eventually Division Director of the Division of Environmental Response and Remediation.
As Director of DERR Brad was thrust into a different aspect of the work. Days in the field where were swapped for work on the policy side of the department. He recalls this change being an educational experience and something new for the kid that just wanted to work outside. True to form, he tackled this job the same way he approached his other jobs at DEQ—with rigor and dedication to excellence.
After nearly a decade helming DERR, Brad was appointed Deputy Director of DEQ in 2009. In this role, he oversaw the operations of the Department.
In his role as Deputy Director, Brad was one of many employees charged with the multi-year task of securing funding for the new Technical Service Center.
For many years, the scientists and staff at DEQ worked out of several old locations across the valley. Although it was one of DEQ’s highest priority to relocate these sites to a more central and updated location, without legislative funds, DEQ employees would have to make do. After many years and many false starts, the building committee was finally able to secure funding for the new building in 2016. Ground broke on the structure in 2017 and in April, the same month as Brad leaves, the new Technical Services Centered opened its doors.
These are just some of Brad’s many accomplishments. As he leaves the DEQ, he has countless accomplishments to hang his hat on. When asked what he is most proud of, he turned the question around. It isn’t the accolades or the important mission that has meant the most to Brad. It was the people—dedicated employees that showed up each day to improve the quality of life in Utah.
For the better part of four decades, Brad has remained one of the foundations at DEQ. His contributions to our mission, his expertise and leadership will be missed. Travel safe, Brad. Thank you for your service.
I am a public information officer for DEQ and a former marketer and magazine editor. Follow me on Instagram @Jarv801.