GOP Ohio Rep. Johnson to leave Congress early to start new job as president of Youngstown State University

 January 3, 2024

The already slim Republican majority in the House of Representatives will shrink even more this month as yet another GOP member is set to exit Congress a year before their term would have ended.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) reportedly submitted on Tuesday a letter of resignation effective Jan. 21, which will allow him to begin serving earlier than expected in his new job as president of Ohio's Youngstown State University, according to the Washington Examiner.

The congressman had initially announced the job change in November but wasn't expected to make that change until March, with the unanticipated early start in that new role being announced Tuesday by Michael Peterson, the chair of YSU's board of trustees.

Johnson leaving Congress earlier than expected

In a brief memo to the "YSU Community," Board Chairman Peterson stated, "I am pleased to announce that Youngstown State University’s 10th President, Bill Johnson, will officially assume the role of President at YSU, beginning on January 22, 2024. Bill submitted his official resignation from Congress today, effective at the end of day on January 21, 2024, paving the way for him to begin his presidency this month."

"With his contract indicating he would start prior to March 15, 2024 we are excited to have him on campus earlier than anticipated," the chairman continued. "In the meantime, Bill will continue to visit campus as often as his schedule allows to continue meeting with students, faculty and staff.

"Bill brings a commitment to advancing our institution's mission, and we eagerly anticipate the contributions he and his wife LeeAnn will make to our community," Peterson added. "As always, thank you for your commitment to our students’ success and dedication to YSU. We are excited about what the future holds."

Johnson's resignation letter and prior announcement

Local NBC affiliate WFMJ reported that Rep. Johnson sent his resignation to both Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to inform them of his accelerated plan to leave Congress early and take the reins as the new leader of the university.

In that letter, the congressman is said to have praised his constituents as being "proud and patriotic" Americans who are too often ignored and overlooked by the nation's "elites," especially within the country's academic realm.

Johnson reportedly wrote of his district's residents, "These blue-collar communities, like countless others in 'flyover county' were critical in building our great nation and will play a pivotal role in America's future. I am extremely humbled to have been repeatedly elected to serve them."

It was on Nov. 21, 2023, that Rep. Johnson announced, "After much thought and prayerful deliberation, I have accepted the offer to lead Youngstown State University and will not be seeking an 8th term in Congress. As I’ve stated previously, I wasn’t looking for another job, because I love the one I have serving the people of Eastern Ohio in the U.S. House. This was an extremely difficult decision."

"This is not a goodbye, however. I will continue serving in the House for several more months, and you will see no let up. My offices are open and my staff remains ready to serve you. There is still much left on my agenda to do before I depart Congress," he continued and listed off several top priorities before he added, "It’s business as usual."

Hiring draws sharp criticism; will reduce House GOP majority

Not everybody is happy with the change, however, as The Vindicator reported that there has been substantial criticism and pushback against the YSU Board of Trustees 8-1 vote in November to hire Johnson following a brief and secretive search for a new university president.

Complaints have emanated from the school's liberal alumni, donors, faculty, staff, and students, with objections ranging from Johnson's lack of experience in higher education to his conservative beliefs and expressed support for former President Donald Trump, and the YSU Academic Senate even passed a "no confidence" vote in mid-December against Johnson and the Board of Trustees.

According to The Hill, Johnson's early departure from Congress -- which follows close behind the Dec. 31 exit of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and prior expulsion of Rep. George Santos (R-NY) -- means the partisan split in the House will now stand at 219 Republicans to 213 Democrats, which will give the GOP a mere two-vote margin in passing legislation, at least until vacancies can be filled with special elections.

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