Johnson, 44, has been serving as interim city manager since November of 2012, after Bill Rawlings left the position. Rawlings received a severance package of more than $193,000 through a separation agreement reached with the city after a new council was seated.
Johnson received a salary of $160,000 over the last year. According to city attorney Julie Biggs, the terms of Johnson's new contract will be negotiated with the city finance committee.
"Mr. Johnson was approved by consensus vote, and without objection," Biggs said during Wednesday night's city council meeting.
After the announcement was made at the start of the council meeting, Johnson thanked members of the city council and staff for what he sees as the teamwork necessary to move the city forward.
"Four and a half years ago, I came to this community," said Johnson, who previously served as senior manager of community improvement and outreach. "We've had a lot of firsts since I've been here. We secured funding for a new I-215 interchange project. We have a Capital Improvement Project plan that is moving forward. And we've been able to set a tone and policy in working with the city council.
"It has been a pleasure working with these council members. They have not been afraid to tackle some tough subjects."
Under Johnson's leadership, the city was able to finalize its general plan -- a required strategic plan that was five years in the making. Some residents questioned the council's decision to give a $120,000 consultant contract to former Temecula city manager Shawn Nelson while retaining Johnson at the same time. Now that Nelson's short-term contract is up at the end of February and Johnson has been given permanent status, Johnson defends the decision to pay for the extra help.
"To the people who questioned that move, I challenged them to look at other cities and the staffing they have," Johnson said after the meeting. "We have 40 people on staff. Murrieta and Temecula have more than 100. Yes, a consultant costs more money than another staff member, but you expect a lot more experience from the consultant."
Nelson assisted with aspects of the general plan and most recently presented a study and proposal about leadership of the city's parks and recreation -- a subject that has not yet been resolved. Following Nelson's departure, Johnson is prepared to continue as a leader of the city's many development projects.
"The biggest challenge has been helping everyone decide where we're going and how to get there," Johnson said. "We used to talk about doing stuff; now we do it."