Springfield, MO

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2012 Most Influential Women Honoree: Kelly Johnson

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Governmental employee Kelly Johnson divides her time between state and local efforts to improve and promote equality.

A senior counselor and disabilities adjudicator for the state of Missouri’s Disability Determination Services program, Johnson also serves as vice chairwoman of the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights and Community Relations.

Johnson has been deeply involved in a nondiscrimination ordinance that quickly became a hot-button issue when it hit Springfield City Council this year. For two years, Johnson has worked on the ordinance, which would expand the city’s nondiscrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories. In August, council voted in favor of tabling the proposal, putting it in the hands of a citizen-led task force to further discuss the issue and bring back a recommendation to the city’s governing body.

“I have devoted days and weeks for study and preparation that has afforded me the knowledge and confidence to address this controversial topic with sensitivity, openness and ease,” Johnson says, pointing to meetings with city attorneys, council members and the mayor, as well as news interviews. “I approach each of these situations with a genuine intent to promote, assist and guide everyone, without judgment.

“I am confident that my fairness, patience and tenacity will pay off, and I fully expect that Springfield will see the inclusion of this new category very soon.”

Johnson – who also serves on the board of directors of Women In Need of the Ozarks and has experience working at the Missouri Career Center and The Kitchen Inc. – utilizes her educational background in psychology and counseling for her role with the state.

The job entails regularly managing a caseload of roughly 100 disability applicant.

“Some of these individuals are blind, some have cancer, many are children with impairments such as autism or Down syndrome,” Johnson says, noting those determined to be disabled are eligible for benefits from the state.

“The benefits they receive allow them to obtain medical treatment or to buy necessities.”

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