Puyallup council: McGregor, Palmer, Swanson, Johnson

Dean Johnson
Dean Johnson

The Puyallup City Council faces nitty gritty municipal problems that have plagued cities since the days of Rome, including zoning disputes, homelessness and an underfunded water infrastructure.

But the council’s biggest problem is itself. In recent years, Puyallup’s elected leadership has become notorious for infighting, some of it exceptionally nasty, petty and vindictive.

With four races on the ballot this year, Puyallup voters have a chance to elect a more functional and dignified City Council. Our recommendations:

▪ District 1 – northern Puyallup – offers a no-lose race between two superb candidates, Pat McGregor and Robin Farris.

Neither has held elected office, but neither is new to public life. Farris – a retired naval officer – led the effort five years ago to recall Dale Washam as Pierce County’s assessor-treasurer. McGregor is currently serving on the Planning Commission. Either would be an excellent addition to the council.

McGregor has the longer track record in community affairs. When he lived in Tacoma, he was a standout neighborhood activist, leading efforts against public drunkenness, crime and other blights. In Puyallup, he is seemingly everywhere – on the homelessness task force, the salary review commission, coaching basketball. Not least, he serves as principal of Meeker Elementary School. All this energy should be sent to the City Council.

▪ District 2 – central Puyallup – features another win-win choice. Keith Sherrill, an upbeat Army special ops veteran, is challenging incumbent John Palmer, who is seeking a second term on the council. Sherrill is relatively new to the area, having settled in Puyallup three years ago, but he’s clearly invested in the community and now serves as chairman of the city’s parks commission.

Promising as Sherrill is, we see no need to replace Palmer. A senior policy advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency, Palmer has unmatched environmental expertise. He served as chairman of the Planning Commission prior to joining the council, where he’s been a level-headed presence on the contention-ridden body.

▪ District 3 – southern Puyallup – features a race between one-term incumbent Tom Swanson and challenger Robin Ordonez.

Ordonez – a former wastewater administrator for Pierce County – knows water utilities, and he’s served on the Planning Commission. Swanson is a legislative analyst for the Pierce County Council.

We belief Swanson deserves another term. He doesn’t pick fights, and that’s a qualification on this council. He’s also a politically savvy conservative who knows his way around Olympia and the county council.

▪ The race for the at-large (citywide) position pits one-term incumbent Steve Vermillion against newcomer Dean Johnson.

We endorsed Vermillion with some enthusiasm four years ago; his intelligence, ability and impressive military career seemed to promise great things. To our disappointment, he became a corrosive influence and one of the chief drivers of conflict on the council.

Johnson, a former pastor who works for Nordstrom, has done low-profile volunteer service for the community and church organizations. He’s not a showboat, but the council could use more of his kind of humility. We think he’d be a trade up from Vermillion.