San Juan to Texas to Congress?

by Maggie Boyle Judi
Nearly 25 years removed from his San Juan football glory days, John Slavens still has that competitive Bronco attitude.
After serving a two-year church mission, completing a stint as a defensive back for the BYU Cougars, and earning masters degree in accounting, Slavens was just getting started.
After working an international job with PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, co-founding B-Strong Foundation, a non-profit charity helping to strengthen youth, and managing and owning four health and wellness clinics, all by the age of 40, John asked himself, “Why not call it a marathon and run for Congress in the great state of Texas?”
And boy, does he face an uphill battle. It comes in the form of a 26-year incumbent, Congressman Sam Johnson, who despite his 85 years, shows no signs of losing his well-established seat in the Texas Third Congressional District. A Republican primary election to pare the list of four candidates was held on March 1, after the press deadline.
So when I asked Johnny what he will do if the race doesn’t end in his favor, I was a more than a little surprised at his response. He said, “You know, we honestly believe we are going to win so we haven’t thought about that yet.”
The idea of failure has not occurred to Johnny Slavens. Now that’s the Bronco spirit. The man’s heart still pumps Blue and Gold, or as he more eloquently puts it, “You don’t fight the fights you can win, you fight the fights worth fighting.”
That phrase speaks volumes for Johnny’s ideology. On his website,, John lists seven key principles, and three policies he supports and many other ideals too numerous for our purposes here.
One unique attribute is a page he calls My Pledges, in which he promises that if elected he will only serve four two-year terms and be done.
“One of the biggest problems our country faces is career politicians,” he said. A self-proclaimed Constitutionalist, Slavens said the U.S. Constitution is the key to rebuilding the greatness of America. When asked what he will do when he is elected, Slaven’s simply puts it this way, “We’ll fight for God, and fight for the Constitution.”
As Johnny progressed in his prolific business career and found himself in a position to retire a couple years ago, he and wife Glenna had to make some decisions on how best to use their assets, time and talents for the future.
After making a list of things they could do, he explains, “This felt right!” about his decision to run for office and right the wrongs of the past. He also mentions recent federal controversies in San Juan County, including the Forest Service destruction of a family cabin, and the death of beloved friend Dr. James Redd, as sources of inspiration for change in how the government operates in the lives of everyday citizens.
“Who knows why the government does some of the things it does!,” he says in regards to the cabin issue. “That’s one of the things that’s been frustrating to me my whole life.”
Like many people who choose a life in politics, Johnny and his wife Glenna (who is herself a San Juan County native and the daughter of Sandy Johnson and Saundra Bennett) want a better America for their family.
The Slavens are no strangers to hardship. Married 15 years, they have had many struggles with infertility. Adoptions fell through and starting a family seemed impossible. But with faith and endurance, the couple were finally able to adopt an adorable baby who has grown into an adorable four-year-old whom they named Thunder.
Thunder is uniquely named after his father John, and grandfather James. Says Johnny, “In Mark 3:17, Jesus gives James and John a surname, “the sons of thunder,” so my son is named after us!”
With the support of his wife and son, Johnny will continue to fight for the conservative values that were cultivated during his San Juan County upbringing. He will use the competitive fight he learned on the football field and basketball court, from legendary coaches Art Burtenshaw, Monty Lee and Dennis Jones, to claw is his way to his goal.
Teams Johnny was on in high school earned state basketball and football championships, so he knows a thing or two about winning.
In 1992, the Deseret News recognized Johnny on the All State football team. In a small article, amongst blurbs about other players from around the state, Art Burtenshaw described Slavens with these words, “Leading tackler for three years, 179 this year. Great hitter and leader, the heart of our team”
When you come out of Blanding, says Slavens, “You honestly think that you can conquer the whole entire world because the people in Blanding make you feel that way. When you come out of there, you honestly think you will!”
So don’t tell John Slavens he won’t succeed, don’t talk about the odds against him or the uphill climb he faces towards his goal of Congressional service. He has a goal, one which no doubt he will eventually reach, the obligation he feels towards God and country is a major theme of his life.
And when he has served faithfully, Johnny will be back home. He commenced the interview this way, “I feel this overwhelming obligation to serve the world in any way I can, but once that’s done we’re moving to Blanding.”

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