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ANN CONWAY

Keeping Up With the Johnsons Isn't Going to Get Any Easier

April 05, 1993|ANN CONWAY

They haven't met Socks yet. Or decided where to live.

But one thing community activists Janice and Roger Johnson know for sure: Orange County is home, the place they'll come back to when his stint in Washington as head of the General Services Agency is over. (" If I'm confirmed by the Senate," Roger Johnson said of his recent appointment by President Clinton.)

Both admit they have mixed emotions about leaving Orange County. "It won't be easy leaving our home, our friends," Janice said.

Said Roger: "When I think about leaving Western Digital, I have to say it's the biggest swing of emotion I've ever had; my heart is on the floor." He has been president and CEO of Western Digital Corp. since 1982.

On the other hand, he said, "I have the leader of the country calling, asking if I will help him put the country back on track, and that's about the wildest, most exciting thing that's ever happened in my life."

Meanwhile, Orange County arts society has begun to wonder what the scene will be like sans Johnsons.

After all, it was Janice Johnson who founded the annual "Center of Fashion" style show that has made hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. It was Janice Johnson who co-chaired the center's fifth-anniversary celebration.

Also, she gave the Pacific Symphony Orchestra its League support group. She is president of the symphony board. Last fall, she was chairwoman of the South Coast Repertory gala, the annual launch of Orange County's social season.

For years, Roger was a fund-raising catalyst for the center. Now, he is chairman of the Pacific Symphony's $5-million Capital Endowment Campaign.

Will the couple pull off a social balancing act between here and Washington?

For a while. Here's the plan:

In two months, Roger will move to Washington ("Maybe I'll live at the Watergate," the Republican deadpans) and return to his Laguna Beach home on weekends. He will continue his efforts on behalf of the symphony's capital campaign through Sept. 30.

"I also hope to be able to stay on the symphony board," he said. "I have asked (Administration officials) if I could stay on nonprofit boards--namely at the symphony and UCI. But that isn't clear yet."

Janice will remain in Orange County through Jan. 1, then move to Washington. "We'll probably live near Foggy Bottom (the State Department)--that's where Roger's office will be," she said. She will remain president of the symphony board through June 1. "If they reelect me, I will commute."

Don't look for the Johnsons to do any social-climbing during their tenure in the capital. "We're not that type of couple," Roger said. "We've never been so-called society types. We simply get active in a community and meet other people who are active."

Hillary Rodham Clinton isn't in to society parties, Janice said. "Let's face it, the First Lady sets the social tone, and Hillary is a working wife.

"At the inauguration she partied because the office called for it. But that isn't her goal. Her goal is to use her talents to set the best example she can for young women of today.

"In fact, I'm not going there to serve tea and eat cookies."

Janice may end up with a government spot of her own. "I expect Janice to be involved in a variety of things," Roger said. "She may serve on some commissions, some boards--the Administration is looking for that kind of help."

If she has her way, Janice will serve in the arts education arena. "Children are really missing out on the arts in schools. I would love to be in a position to encourage music and arts education," she said.

When they've both moved to Washington, the couple will lease their waterside Laguna Beach home and rent a local apartment for their Orange County visits, Janice said.

"Nah, we're going to live with many of our good friends," Roger teased. "They just don't know it yet."

A few years down the road, the Orange County arts crowd may be in for a musical surprise.

"I plan on asking the President if he will come here to play his saxophone with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra," Janice said. "Probably the best time to approach him will be when he is running for reelection."

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