example, there are chemicals in fingerprint ink and dusting powder that can be carcinogenic, Johnson notes. It’s her job to keep up with the constant stream of new chemicals and products being used in industry, their risks and federal, state and local regulations governing their use. The list of agencies whose rules she must enforce is virtually endless, encompassing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Labor and the Department of Community Affairs–to name just a few.
Johnson learned the basics of her profession at Ciba-Geigy, where she was hired as an industrial hygiene technician in 1988, straight out of Cook College, Rutgers University. “Like everybody else, I was premed,” Johnson recalls. “When I realized I didn’t want to continue with medicine and be in school forever, my advisor, who headed the environmental studies department, steered me toward industrial hygiene.”
It quickly proved the right move for her. “I liked it,” she says. “It was a new, interesting and multidisciplinary field, so there are broad and wide opportunities out there for it.” She went on to get her master’s degree in environmental and occupational health sciences from New York’s Hunter College.
Ultimately, Johnson plans to become certified in a number of specialties within her field, en route to owning an environmental and occupational consulting firm. (She already does some consulting work in her off- hours.) In a field with few African Americans or women, certification will be particularly important for her, she notes. But once certified, says the $55,000-a-year county employee, she should easily double her current salary. “Getting certified is difficult. But it’s the top of the line. The need for our services is so great that once you’re certified, the sky’s the limit on income,” she says. In the meantime, though, Johnson enjoys her work and relishes the fact that “there’s no such thing as an average day.”
CHERYL “C.J.” JOHNSON GOSSIP COLUMNIST
Like any seasoned journalist Cheryl Johnson has a list of stringent ground rules to lay down before agreeing to be interviewed: “You can use my full name just one time,” she commands. “After that, you have to call me C.J.” Why? She answers indignantly, as if that’s the dumbest question ever waged: “I don’t like my name. I keep it because it’s important to my mother. But it’s dull.” Okay. Next?
“Call me ‘black.’ I’m not ‘African American.’ It takes up too much ink, and I’ve never been to Africa.” Got it. There are a few other guidelines (like personally approving her photo for the article).
They are concrete and non-negotiable. For instance, when it comes to her age, C.J. will say only, “I’m in my forties.” Why the ambiguity? “A woman who would tell you her age would tell you anything.”
It’s an ironic line, especially coming from Minneapolis’ most notorious gossip columnist, a woman who makes her living skewering celebrities and politicians on the very public pages of the StarTribune. One of her most frequent targets is the Twin Cities’ brightest star,