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Davidson County Register of Deeds Karen Johnson, Biography

Karen Johnson, headshot

Davidson County Register of Deeds Karen Johnson is the first African American and the first woman to be elected to the position. She is known across Nashville as a driven worker for the community and a creative corporate thinker.

However, few Nashvillians know Karen’s life journey. She lost her parents, both renowned educators with Historic Fisk University and MNPS, at an early age. A graduate of public schools, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Tennessee State University and an MBA in Management at Trevecca Nazarene University – all while raising two small boys and working full-time. She is a Certified Public Administrator with the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service.

In the professional arena, Karen’s focus has been on human resources and records management. She has worked for the State of Tennessee, HCA, Shoney’s Inc., and Mercy Health Services.

With a passion for public service, Karen was elected two terms as Metro Council Member for District 29, winning first with 52% in a competitive five way race without a runoff election and re-elected with 82%, which was the largest percentage of any contested race that year. She was also unanimously elected Council President Pro Tempore, and served as chair of the Charter Revisions committee, and vice chair of Rules, Confirmations and Public Elections committee. She served as an elected member of the Metro School Board and was appointed to the Metro Boards of Zoning Appeals and Parks and Recreation. Karen currently serves on the Metro Public Records Commission.

While serving on the Metro Council, Karen’s hard work paid off. Among her many accomplishments, she was instrumental in the creation of the Smith Springs Regional Community Center, which serves seniors and families. She also helped make Cane Ridge High School and Smith Springs Elementary School possible.

On Karen’s watch, the Una Sports Park facilities were upgraded and restrooms added. She also successfully championed the first Civil Rights Art project for Nashville, located on the grounds of the Historic Metro Courthouse.

She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and a past member of Les Gemmes Nashville chapter, a past Chair of the Sister for Sister Conference – 100 Black Women-Metro Nashville, a Past President of the Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus, and one of the founding board members for the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument. She also was elected to the National League of Cities (NLC) board of directors, and served on the boards of Women in Municipal Government, the Tennessee Municipal League, as chair and vice chair of the Large Cities Council and vice chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Services committees. She also was selected as a fellow by the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) and served as a Regional Director for the Board of Directors. She is a member of the County Officials Association of Tennessee (COAT), the Tennessee Registers Association, and the Property Records Industry Association.

Karen is a member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where she serves on the Usher Ministry.

Karen was named one of the Nashville Business Journal’s Women of Influence, The Tennessean’s 40 Under 40, the Nashville Chamber’s Emerging Leaders, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity Tau Lambda chapter public service award recipient and she was honored by the Tennessee State University Foundation as a Woman of Legend and Merit in Government. She also is a Leadership Nashville alumna.

Her husband, David Johnson, served honorably as a United States Marine. They have three sons, Jonathan, Christopher, and Dave, and one granddaughter. Karen’s children are graduates of Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Johnson was elected Register of Deeds in August, 2018.

Historical List of Davidson County Registers