Prior to elected office, John spent a decade managing his own law firm, representing crime victims and small business clients. He was also involved in several high-profile cases ranging from the federal Salmon-scam to the Pierce County Racketeering trials. John represented tribal members in Washington and Oregon attempting to recover their treaty fishing rights, becoming a well known trial lawyer.
John entered public service as a Tacoma City Council member. Right away he became a leader in protecting the environment and in establishing clean drinking water standards. John led the fight to force the Federal EPA to clean up polluted water wells owned by Tacoma’s water utility. He helped negotiate a settlement with EPA which cleaned the water supply without new taxes. He helped bring the first secondary treatment plant to Tacoma’s sewer utility and helped reach an agreement that provided over $60 million to build the plant. He lead the fight against W.P.P.S.S. nuclear plant cost overruns and forced Tacoma to withdraw from the W.P.P.S.S. power fiasco.
John was selected by the Council to be lead negotiator in the historic Puyallup Indian Land Claims settlement. After five years of negotiations wherein John chaired the non-Indian strategy committee, a landmark settlement of over $160 million dollars was reached. That settlement was approved by Congress and signed by President Bush. That settlement helped the Port of Tacoma expand and eventually pass Seattle in size and jobs.
John’s expert skills as a negotiator lead to him being selected to be President of the Puget Sound Economic Development Board and President of the Puget Sound Regional Council. While there, John helped create the Prosperity Partnership, a partnership of the public and private sectors that would work to make a new Puget Sound Economic plan. Over 250 organizations have signed on as a partner to help develop and implement the Prosperity Partnership’s regional economic strategy. John is one of eight co-chairs of the group. John has lectured on economic development as far away as Stockholm.
After being encouraged to run by members of law enforcement, John was elected Prosecuting Attorney in 1986, defeating an incumbent Prosecutor. Throughout his time in office, John received national recognition for innovative and positive changes. As the Legislative Chair of the State Prosecutor’s Association, he was instrumental in writing new laws against drug dealers and gang violence.
After a brutal crime in Pierce County, John created the nation’s first “Sex Predator Notification Law“, later approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. He also was a major participant in the re-writing of Washington’s sex predator laws, receiving special recognition from the Tennis Shoe Brigade. Later, John’s office wrote the nation’s first sex predator Civil Commitment law. After John helped support the law’s passage, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it.
John was one of the founding members of Safe Streets of Pierce County, a nationally recognized neighborhood watch program. He served 10 years on the Board of Directors. Recognizing the danger of Meth addiction, John organized the first “Meth Summit” in the State to bring the issue to the forefront of law enforcement. He then helped organize the first “Drug Court” in the State, in an effort to treat the addiction as a disease.
In his second term as Pierce County Executive, John took the lead to improve the environment. Working with other counties and jurisdictions, John is helping to bring 21st Century transportation to the Puget Sound area, increase salmon populations by restoring habitat, improve economic development to create jobs, and clean up environmental pollution. His efforts to end illegal dumping, protect natural areas and create new parks and trails have been honored with national and local awards.
When he became Executive, John joined the Sound Transit Board right at the time the agency was forced to announce it was far over budget and behind schedule. John wasted no time turning the troubled agency around. Although it was tradition for members to serve only two years as Chair of the Board, John was asked by fellow members to serve an unprecedented four straight years, stepping down in January 2008. When John took over as Chair, the Link Light Rail line to the airport was less than 10% complete. Today it is more than 95% complete and on time and on budget.
John’s combination of skills as a trial lawyer, negotiator, agency head, economic development executive and his far-reaching contacts in the government and business community make him invaluable in complex negotiations and settlements.