A self-described “small-town kid from Vashon,” Gary Johnson feels like he’s come a long way to his recent appointment by Gov. Chris Gregoire to the Pierce County Superior Court, replacing Judge Gary Steiner, who retired Feb. 1.
He traces his success directly to the National Defense Student Loan (now Federal Perkins) that sent him to college.
“Everyone in this country contributed to my chance to get an education,” he says. “Now it’s my turn to pay back.”
Since 1987 Gary has been an attorney at Kram, Johnson, Wooster & McLaughlin in Tacoma. He’s has done a little of everything in his career, he explains, having started work when there were only a handful of attorneys in Kitsap County.
“I have about as broad a background as you can find for a lawyer,” he says. “I’ve been a prosecutor, defense lawyer, served as pro tem judge” for Kitsap County District and Port Orchard Municipal, and Pierce County Superior Court.
It’s an intense vetting process for judicial appointments in this state.
“This governor has done a terrific job of having a process in place,” he says, including a 50-page application, judges’ recommendations and interviews with minority bar associations.
“It really is a chance to do what I’m good at a different level.” He says he told the governor it was like being raised on Vashon, where “you don’t drive past someone with a flat tire.”
Of course, what the governor doesn’t know is that the day she called to give Gary the news, he was having an appendicitis attack and waiting for a call from his doctor.
“I was in considerable pain while she was talking very eloquently,” says Gary who was saying to himself, “this is unbelievable,” while at the same time, “I’m thinking, ‘I gotta get off the phone!’”
While an undergraduate and law student at University of Puget Sound, Gary first met the late Rabbi Richard Rosenthal of Tacoma’s Temple Beth El.
“This was before I met Jackie,” he says, referring to his wife, Jackie Rosenblatt.
The rabbi, an adjunct professor of religion, became a great influence. “He was exceptional” and “brilliant,” Gary says. “He was my rabbi and always will be.”
Jackie and Gary were married at Herzl, where Jackie grew up. Their two grown sons, Josh and Joseph, both work at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island and Gary says, “I’m incredibly proud of them.”
When he’s not working, His Honor is a “rabid” windsurfer and an equally “rabid” reader who enjoys historical fiction and current affairs.
Gary began work April 18, but his formal swearing-in is May 12 at 4 p.m. at the Pierce County-City Building (930 Tacoma Ave. South, Tacoma), and is open to the public.
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Ronny Bell, whose grandfather founded Hebrew National, left college with three objectives: 1. Never wear a tie 2. Never create a resume 3. Never wear a watch.
Now 38, the founder of Pioneer Organics — he sold his interest a few years ago — has launched a “daily deal” site called Ideal Network, a group-buying website that raises funds for good causes. The company, founded with business partner Jon Ramer, is still small enough that when I called there, Ronny answered the phone. It combines group buying (like Groupon), crowd funding (like causes.com), social media (like Facebook) with “cause marketing” (buying things while helping people).
A recent example was a deal on Mighty-O donuts that benefitted the Moyer Foundation. The site showed met that a little over a dollar of my purchase would be donated to the foundation — or I could pick a different cause.
With Hebrew National such an integral part of his family’s life, Ronny says he learned “an early lesson that having a business [should be] meaningful,” not “just about buying and selling.”
People often tell him what an important part of their lives Hebrew National has been, “and I don’t think they mean the hot dogs,” he says. It’s the emotional relationship that’s essential.
Describing himself as a cultural Jew with Buddhist leanings, Ronny says he’s having fun with his 8-month-old daughter as well as with his business. In his free time, he says, “I cook and play hockey.”
And he’s managed to stick to the objectives stated above.
The company launched Feb. 1 and Ronny says things are going well. He’s interested in hearing from Jewish charitable organizations that might like to partner with the company. Contact information — and the deal of the day — are at www.idealnetwork.com.