When Dean Johnson and his wife Deborah relocated from Tacoma to Puyallup nearly 20 years ago to raise their children, they had no idea how far their family roots went back in the area.
One day when Johnson was homeschooling his children and reading “Puyallup: A Pioneer Paradise” to them, he came across the name Perry Summerfield, a member of Puyallup’s first legal council back in 1890. Johnson began to wonder if he and the member of the original Puyallup council could be related.
Summerfield turned out to be Johnson’s great-great grandfather. After connecting with Andy Anderson at the Puyallup Historical Society, he learned that Summerfield came to Puyallup in 1882, and first worked for Ezra Meeker as a hop tender.
According to Anderson, Summerfield’s involvement with Puyallup didn’t stop once he was elected to council. He ran the county’s poor farm for the homeless and was the town’s constable in later years.
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In more recent family history, Johnson, a 20-year Puyallup resident, has had the desire to run for a seat on the City Council for the last 15 years. Last year Johnson finally felt ready to take on a campaign and eventually the role of the at-large council seat after defeating incumbent Steve Vermillion.
With a lineage of six generations calling Puyallup home, Johnson took his oath of office Dec. 31 and is excited about continuing his family’s legacy on the council.
“I believe we truly honor Puyallup’s past by propelling that into Puyallup’s future,” Johnson said last week while looking over some family history photos at the Meeker Mansion.
Looking into the past for wisdom and guidance has meant Johnson has found several ironies in his great-great grandfather’s campaign on the city council as well as his own.
Johnson’s great-great grandfather ran on both tickets for the seat; Johnson was endorsed in November by both Republicans and Democrats.
“Perry was a trusted party in a divided community,” Anderson said.
“(I plan to) uphold a leadership approach that transforms our image from being viewed as a politician to one who is truly seen a public servant,” Johnson said. “We will accomplish these goals with respectful communication combined with public accountability to ensure an open and ethical form of city government.”
While Johnson plans to continue to look to the past for guidance and wisdom for his first term in public office, he says he plans to honor the work previous citizens have put in, but also come up with new ideas to keep Puyallup from being stuck in the past.
“It’s so important to have generation after generation in Puyallup,” Johnson said. “It allows us to not lose touch of our community, but also keeping in mind that there is always room for improvement. It’s the people who make the city.”