Events lady finds career at Co-Lin
By Bob Arnold
Erin Johnson, who joined Co-Lin as Events Coordinator and director of its Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR) program back in February, isn’t job-hunting any more and can’t foresee doing so in the future.
When the interviewer for the Co-Lin job asked her where she saw herself working in five years, she answered simply: “I hope I will be right here in the job that I want now.”
After a flurry of people had left the Co-Lin position in recent years to enjoy their retirement years, it was exactly what Co-Lin officials wanted to here from the young woman who had graduated from the school 15 years earlier and was ready to settle in to a career at her alma mater. ILR members, other beneficiaries of the college’s special events and co-workers who are involved in producing them as well couldn’t be happier about the new stability in the critical position she has taken over.
Johnson’s career journey started at a tender age nurturing a bottle calf, and included helping a corporate CEO grow a major business and managing her own clothing and jewelry store.
Born at Natchitoches, Louisiana, Johnson came to the area around Topisaw Creek at Ruth, Mississippi, when she was four years old with her parents, two older brothers, and one older and one younger sister. Her father worked as a forester at Georgia Pacific and her mother was a school nurse.
She recalls a “wholesome” childhood growing up on 40 acres in the small rural community, where she played with her sisters, enjoyed 4-H activities and participated in the life of Topisaw Baptist Church.
In the second grade, Johnson started her first job on her family’s mini-farm when she persuaded her father to get her a bottle calf that required care a mother cow couldn’t provide. She nurtured the calf, which generated a modest income for her as a cow when it had its own calves that could be sold. “When I reached driving age at 16 years old, I had saved enough money to buy my own vehicle,” she says.
At Enterprise High School, Johnson served on the yearbook staff, played basketball and her fellow students chose her to reign as Miss Enterprise. She graduated as valedictorian. Then it was off to Co-Lin.
“I cut down on my involvement in extracurricular activities at Co-Lin, where I studied business,” Johnson says. “I was a Co-Lin Trail Blazer who helped introduce the college to new and prospective students, but also worked outside the school to earn money for my education by making shakes and pouring energy drinks at the juice bar at the therapy and performance center that is now run by King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven.”
After Co-Lin, she headed for Mississippi State, spending all of one day there before deciding the life and atmosphere at Starkville wasn’t for her. She quit, took a semester off from studies, and then enrolled at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, which had been her first choice for ongoing college education all along. Over two years there, she completed a BS in Business Administration with a focus on marketing.
In 2009, Johnson joined Brookhaven-based Reed’s Metals as executive assistant to Bernie Reed, the company’s President and CEO, who was focused on growing a company with $12 million in annual sales into major international player in the metal fabricating industry. “That’s where I really learned business,” says Johnson. “I was involved in every aspect of the company – assisting in purchasing materials and machines for manufacturing and product sales. I traveled on small planes visiting suppliers and customers, attended trade shows and hosted foreign visitors, including Taiwanese delegations.”
By 2015, Johnson says she had pretty much “burned myself out” in helping her boss engineer the growth of a major business and started looking for an opportunity to go into business for herself on a smaller scale in retail. She found store-front space in the rear of a building across the street from Reed’s Metals which her brothers owned and where they operated Johnson’s Fencing. With the help of her brothers, she created the boutique environment she wanted, and opened Erin & Co. to sell clothing and jewelry.
When she lost her retail space in 2020, Johnson kept Erin & Co. alive as an online business selling graphic t-shirts for women, and rejoined Bernie Reed as his assistant at Reed Capital Investors, which he started after selling Reed’s Metals. Johnson learned about the Co-Lin job from her sister, who also works at the college. “I had become good at events works and it was what I really wanted to do.”
Today, at Co-Lin, Johnson arranges space, staffing and services and assures a proper setup for college and non-college events, helps sell college facilities to outside users and manages finances and overall operations of the events function at the college. For ILR, she also helps its member committees plan programs in addition to coordinating its events.
Johnson continues to live on Topisaw Creek and goes to the nearby church, which has been a part of her life since childhood. Erin & Co. also continues on the internet.
She lives in a small house across the street from her parents, and her brothers and sisters are neighbors. Together, they all live on about 150 contiguous acres of which they are all partial owners. Before coming to work in the mornings and on returning home from work, she tends to her cows, dogs and cats. “I can’t think of any other place where I would like to live,” she says.
What are your hobbies? I enjoy family, particularly being around my nieces and nephews. I exercise to keep in shape, enjoy movie and am active in the church in which grew up. When I vacation, I prefer mission trips associated with my church – often to Indian reservations where we help build homes, feed people and teach vacation Bible schools. I also serve on the board of Hands & Feet Ministries based in Guatemala.
Are you a reader? I read the Bible, enjoy Jane Austin novels and delve into business books to hone my professional skills. More than reading what others write, I enjoy writing – and want to do more of it. Short stories, essays, whatever.
Do you enjoy movies or theater?
My favorite movie is Gone with the Wind, but I also enjoy Marvel films and westerns. I like Kevin Kostner, Robert Downey, Jr. and Maureen O’Hara. On television, I am an avid NCIS fan, and enjoy the old JAG and Magnum PI series. I am a Tom Selleck fan, too.
Do you enjoy any music beyond your own?
I listen to 90s Country and Christian music, particularly that of Third Day and Casting Crowns. I sing in my church choir, and will even do a solo when asked, but it makes me very nervous.
What would you do with lottery winnings if you were so lucky?
I don’t buy lotter tickets, but if I did and won big, I would buy land, build a bigger house, purchase more cows and travel,
How would you change the world? I would tell people about Jesus and practice the Golden Rule – being kind and treating people well.