Ilene Johnson had some serious shopping to do for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week.
A swim coach for many years, the Lilburn resident had a lot of outfits for the water, but not a lot of outfits for nice events. She picked out a gown, got some good walking shoes, and other clothing necessities for the big moment.
"That's been an adventure itself," she said once recent morning while eating pistachios at Alcove coffee shop in Lilburn. "I have to buy real clothes."
Elected in April as local Gwinnett County delegate, this is Johnson's first time going to a Democratic National Convention. When she won the seat, Johnson said she couldn't believe it.
During the voting, Johnson said there were 10 women running for three slots in her congressional district, and that she received the majority of the votes.
"I was really surprised," Johnson said, who has been living in Gwinnett County since 1994. "I've always wanted to go."
In a special blog that Georgia delegates are doing, Johnson's Monday entry read, in part:
"Last night was the first night of fun and frolic at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte. The welcome party for the Georgia delegation, as well as those from the North Carolina, South Carolina, Virgina and Tennessee took place at the Nascar Hall of Fame.
"The Nascar Hall of Fame is a neat place. In addition to being a museum of Nascar history, there are also simulator cars which allow the participant to feel like they are in an actual Nascar race.
"The food was spectacular. There was a bread pudding made by the Krispy Kreme Donut Company which was worth every single calorie! They also served fish tacos, pulled pork and even moon shine! Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke at the end of the night."
Locally, Johnson's been fairly visible, as she leads communications efforts for the Gwinnett County Democratic Party. She's always been interested in politics, though, and recalls watching the Watergate hearings like it was a soap opera when she was 15.
"I would always watch those every day like a soap opera," she said. "It's always wound my clock."
Then at George Washington University, she majored in Soviet studies and got more involved in the political scene. Then life kicked in, but the for the past two years she has been more active.
"I never expected to get to do this much and get this far," she said. "Before, you know, it was just canvassing, get out the vote, knock on doors, make phone calls. Typical stuff."
Today, Johnson is looking forward to hearing First Lady Michelle Obama, and proving -- once in for all that there are Democrats in Gwinnett, and that they care.
As a breast cancer survivor who is keenly aware of personal and financial challenges that entails, Johnson's key issue is health care. Republicans, she said, do not seem to get that Obama's Affordable Care Act had to happen.
Sure, there are some things in it that need to be fixed, "but, (Republicans') solution to that is disastrous for average people," she added.
To usher Obama into another term as president, Johnson said getting out the vote and the Democrats' message will be key.
"Democrats are terrible at getting out the vote, and we have to do a better job of it," she said. We need to do a better job at convincing people that Democrats are not isolated.
"They're are lots of them here, and we need every last person. We need (you) to get off your couch."