Propane Personality: Julie Johnson

April 12, 2021 By    
Julie Johnson


Julie Johnson
President, Ted Johnson Propane

Work Experience

Ted Johnson Propane
⦁ President & Owner
⦁ Office Manager


What business values and lessons did your father pass to you, and what would you like to pass down to the next generation?

Photo courtesy of Julie Johnson

Johnson, left, works with her daughter, Alexandria Wahaus, at the company. Photo courtesy of Julie Johnson

Ted Johnson Propane was founded in 1965 by Julie’s father, Ted. In 1992, she was named president, and the California retailer is now on its third generation of employees with Julie’s daughter, Alexandria Wahaus, working at the company.

“Staying engaged with our customers and not taking their business for granted. My dad worked in the business until the day he passed away, even though he should have been fully retired. This was his passion, and he always felt that we should not take the business for granted because our customers are our business. And if we’re not engaged with our customers, we could lose them.

“I was involved for a while with the Family Business Council at California State University Fullerton, and from first generation to second generation, only 30 percent [of businesses] succeed in that transition, and second generation to third generation is about 4 percent – it really drops off. So keeping those values and not the entitlement, we have to work like we’re going to lose it. Especially in California, with all of the legislative actions against propane and natural gas in the state, we’ve been calling it ‘the fight of our lives.’”

Electrification in California

“In California, they want all new homes to be electric-only. No natural gas; no propane. That’s the overall goal. It’s all getting flushed out city by city, but that’s a pretty huge push that we’ve never really experienced before in California.

“About 15 years ago, they tried to get rid of the propane-powered forklifts. But [WPGA] was able to, as an association, push back on that, and we didn’t get rid of them. But because the forklift manufacturers are manufacturing propane lifts as well as electric lifts, the state of California is incentivizing the sale of the electric lifts. So, we are losing customers constantly from propane forklifts to electric, and there’s not even necessarily a rule that says you have to switch, but people are because of the political trend.

“Also, our governor wants all trucks and vehicles to be electric-only by 2050, and they’re going to pay money and incentivize inventors and people to come up with these products. [Electrification] is a giant wave. It’s a tsunami.”

As vice chair of the Western Propane Gas Association (WPGA), what initiatives are you currently taking or discussing?

Photo courtesy of Julie Johnson

Johnson serves at the Western Propane Gas Association as vice chair, and enjoys spending time with fellow board members, pictured. Photo courtesy of Julie Johnson

“We’re working to get renewable propane. Our state association, four years ago, sat down and said, ‘What is our plan?’ and we said, ‘Well, to get renewable propane.’ That was just a concept at that time. And the fact that through this pandemic, several refineries are converting to renewable diesel and then the byproduct is renewable propane. We’re trying to get a definition of what renewable propane is and then also to get it released so that [we] as marketers could sell it to the end users.”


“I would say mostly working on my golf game. I also enjoy painting and gardening – hobbies that I have to stay focused on. That’s why golf has been so good. I have to think about each shot rather than what’s going on at the office or home. It’s the same with painting. I put on music, I have a picture [on] my mind that I feel inspired to paint and I just stay engaged with that process. It’s really relaxing and rewarding, too, because I get to be creative.”

About the Author:

Carly Bemer (McFadden) was the managing editor at LP Gas magazine.

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