This article first appeared January 16, 2020 in the Seattle Medium.
OLYMPIA – Newly appointed Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-Federal Way) has a lot on his plate for a first-year legislator, but he’s ready to take on the tough issues facing the 30th District and the rest of Washington state. On the second day of session, just one day after being appointed by county councilmembers to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Kristine Reeves, Johnson has met with constituents, attended two committee hearings, co-sponsored a housing justice bill and begun the process of hiring a legislative assistant. He brings a wealth of knowledge on his district through lenses of equity, inclusion and social justice that are needed now in district and state representation.
“People are counting on me to represent our community and the people I grew up with, who have kids in the school district I graduated from, and who have seen cost of living go up long after they have retired, they need a representative ready to hit the ground working, so that’s what I’m doing,” said Johnson after his second committee hearing of the day.
Johnson has a long list of priorities as he begins the process of meeting fellow lawmakers and developing legislation in the short 60-day session. His top priorities include supporting working families and seniors struggling with increased costs, helping students find career pathways to get good paying jobs, housing stability, and fostering entrepreneurship and strengthening small businesses. In addition, he would like to continue to address youth violence prevention, an issue he championed on the City Council in Federal Way, as well as behavioral and mental health services.
Many of those priorities come from his background as someone who grew up in Federal Way. Johnson’s father worked as the Operations Manager for a local painting company, where he apprenticed, which instilled in him the values of hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. His mother is a Navy veteran and works in the district. Being a product of the Federal Way school system and having a Masters of Education from the University of Washington has given Johnson the perspective to understand the needs of student and families in the district.
“Washington has made great strides to fund the K-12 education system, but there is so much more to do. Parents want their kids to have great schools and it’s up to the Legislature to provide those schools,” said Johnson. “When I think about the people I represent, working hard to ensure their children have a great shot at a good career, I think about my parents. They pushed me to follow my dreams and sacrificed to make sure I had that chance. Lawmakers have to remember those parents and all they do for their children and we cannot let them down.”
Johnson was appointed to the Housing, Community Development & Veterans Committee as well as the Vice Chair of the Consumer Protection & Business Committee. In these committees, he will work on bills related to accessibility and affordability of housing, community development and investment programs, veterans and military affairs, licensing and regulation of professional licenses, consumer credit, and lending. His family history of small business ownership and military service lend him a unique voice to those issue areas.
Johnson is a graduate of the Federal Way School District, with honors, and has both a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and a Masters of Education from the University of Washington. He works on Workforce Planning and Development of school staff for the Highline School District as a Human Resources Staffing Analyst. Johnson lives with his wife, a medical student at the University of Washington, in Federal Way.