(EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a look at the personal side of Tukwila’s new “first family,” newly elected Mayor Allan Ekberg, his wife Trish and their children Karlin and Erik. It’s almost a politics-free zone. -Dean A. Radford.)
Christmas at the Ekbergs is usually low-key, a day to hang out, play cribbage or watch football and maybe dine on ham or pizza and chicken nuggets – the request of son Erik and uncle Bryan one year.
And there was that “awesome” chicken fettuccini, says Allan Ekberg – Mr. Mayor starting at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1.
Ekberg has been known to make a cake or pie and the pumpkin cookies he baked Thanksgiving morning “turned out pretty good, actually,” he says.
For years Trish Camozzi-Ekberg has baked rolled butter cookies for her family from a recipe in her mother’s 1960s cookbook. The cookies take time to make but they are good, she says. And you can paint them. (See the recipe below)
Trish “is actually a good cook,” Allan says of his wife, which apparently worked out well for him.
Trish’s first taste of an Allan-cooked dinner came before they married. He mixed together macaroni and cheese out of a box, tuna fish and frozen mixed vegetables. “It was great,” says Allan, of his “bachelor food.”
“I realized then that I would have to be the cook if we actually ended up becoming a family,” says Trish.
The Ekbergs celebrated their 30th anniversary in April. During that time they’ve raised daughter Karlin, 25, and son Erik, 23, who both graduated from Global Connections High School at the Tyee Educational Complex in SeaTac.
Karlin, 25, lives in Ellensburg, where she owns and boards horses, and works for Kittitas County. Erik, 23, is checking out graduate schools to pursue a doctorate degree. He graduated in May from Washington State University, earning bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and psychology (in four years).
You could argue the Ekbergs will now take their place as Tukwila’s “first family,” with the election of Allan as mayor in November. Sharing the house with the Ekbergs are first-dog Nikki, 12, an Alaskan Malamute; Kermit, about 15, the Quaker parrot, who does a good job of imitating blue jays and crows at the top of his voice, and Sara, about 12, the Indonesian box turtle.
“He has yet to say, ‘Go Hawks’,” Trish says of Kermit. “I keep working on that.”
The Ekbergs live in McMicken Heights, a block south of South 160th Street, the border between the Tukwila School District (north) and the Highline School District (south). He thought his kids would go to his alma mater, Foster High School, when the family bought the house.
During that time, the Ekbergs have built very similar and successful careers in the technology field. They met, more or less, at a class in COBOL programming (used by businesses for data processing) at Humboldt State University in northern California. A classmate offered to introduce the young woman sitting next to him.
Allan said, without looking, “Get out of my face. I am trying to get some code done.”
But the classmate insisted. “So I turned and looked at Trish and said ‘hello’ and when I looked, ‘It was love at first sight for me’.” (Trish laughs from the couch.)
Then he turned back to his coding.
“Three or four days later I chased her down and I asked her out. We went out and one thing led to another,” Allan says.
Trish grew up mostly in northern California; her father worked at hatcheries operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife so they moved around a lot, mostly in the middle of nowhere, as she says. After living a rural life, living in an urban area “took a little bit of adjustment,” says Trish.
Allan grew up in Riverton at South 126th Street and 35th Avenue South, within walking distance of Southgate School as a grade schooler.
It was during this time that he formed a close relationship with Paul and Betty Gully that would last for decades. Allan hung out with the Gully’s son Craig; Betty Gully was the Cub Scout den mother and Allan’s mom helped out, too.
Allan found escape with the Gullies when his parents Phyllis and Roy “were going through some rocky times” when he was 11 or 12.
“They always welcomed me to come in and be part of their family and do dinners with them,” Allan said of the Gullies. “There were always like my second mom and dad as a little kid.”
Allan’s parents eventually divorced. Allan was 20 when his father died; his mother died in 1997 while he was serving his second term on the Tukwila City Council.
Paul and Betty Gully were the first recipients of the “Treasures of Tukwila” award, now given annually by the City of Tukwila.
Betty Gully was heavily involved in the Tukwila community, especially the schools. Allan remembers punching out button lapels for a school bond at the Gullies’ home, “just being part of the family.”
From Betty, he learned the art of compromise, Allan said, to get something accomplished.
“You have to be flexible, adaptable and take in what people are telling you and then formulate an opinion,” he said. “It may not be the opinion they want to hear but you have acknowledged what they’ve told you.”
Allan graduated from Foster in 1977 in the Top 10. He was a member of the National Honor Society. “I was a very studious student,” he said. He was a law enforcement Explorer Scout.
He hung out with the jocks, the scholarship students and the “rowdy people,” he says. At the request of legendary coach Werner Neudorf, he helped out with the track team in a support role.
“He (Neudorf) saw something in me. He pulled me out of my shell basically and got me engaged,” Allan says. It also allowed him to hang out with the jocks, he says.
Ekberg wasn’t political at Foster – never gave a thought to running for mayor someday – but he served on the student council in college.
After graduation, Ekberg joined the Air Force, serving as a sergeant in the security force at March Field in California, with the Strategic Air Command. At the same time he earned his associate degree in criminal justice in 1981 from Riverside City College in Riverside, Calif.
He went on to Humboldt State University, where he met Trish and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, concentrating on Computer Information Systems, in 1984. He got a job right out of college. He and Trish married in April 1985.
“I’ve always been focused on what’s the next step in my life, what do I want to do differently,” he says and what he needs to do to reach that goal. “I’ve always been that type of guy.”
Ekberg’s last day as a senior project manager in information technology at BECU is Dec. 25.
The Ekbergs worked at Weyerhaeuser, Trish for 26 years until she was laid off in a round of budget cuts. Now, she’s working for Alaska Airlines as an Office 365 coordinator. Like her husband, she says she’s a bridge between workers and the technical tools that they use on their jobs.
Before the election, the Ekbergs didn’t talk about the expectations Allan’s new job would place on the family, Allan says. Trish figured the routine of Monday night City Council meetings and other duties would just continue. But when Allan won the election, Trish realized it’s probably not going to work out that way.
“I think to me it was just kind of like, ‘OK, he’s going to be mayor. That’s cool’. And then everybody at work is like, ‘Your husband is running for mayor.’ And, I am thinking, ‘Wow, maybe this is a bigger deal than I thought’.”
A mayor’s spouse will attend some occasions, mostly ceremonial, and Trish says she’ll support her husband. But she jokes that she’ll attend three events a year, so “use them wisely.” And Allan says: “That’s her statement to me.”
“We’re pretty easy going. We go with the flow,” Allan says.
Ekberg, 56, says he “had no vision what it would be like to be mayor.” He’s seen other mayora at work, so he understands the role.
“But until I get into it, it’s going to be pretty fascinating to uncover what’s going on and the people you get to meet,” he says.
ROLLED BUTTER COOKIES
Makes about 6 dozen
From Trish Camozzi-Ekberg
This recipe is from my mom’s 1960s Sunbeam Mixmaster cookbook. You can top with the option listed in the recipe below or have a “cookie painting” party as we do to decorate the cookies with Royal Icing and decorative sprinkles.
2 cups flour – sifted, all purpose
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (1 cube) butter, softened
1 cup sugar, granulated
1/8 cup milk (sweet or sour)
1 teaspoon vanilla OR substitute with either 1 tablespoon of grated orange or lemon rind for the vanilla
4 cups flour – sifted, all purpose
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 cubes) butter, softened
2 cups sugar, granulated
1/4 cup milk (sweet or sour)
2 teaspoons vanilla OR substitute with either 2 tablespoons of grated orange or lemon rind for the vanilla
1. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. Combine in mixing bowl, butter, sugar, eggs, and flavoring.
3. Cream on No. 7 speed for 2 minutes.
4. Turn to No. 3 speed.
5. Add milk.
6. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended – about 3 minutes. Scrap bowl as needed.
7. Refrigerate dough until easy to handle.
8. Set oven at 375°F to preheat.
9. Roll part of the dough on lightly floured surface. Roll real thin for crisp cookies. Roll 1/8” to 1/4” thick for soft cookies.
10. Cut with floured cookie cutter.
11. Lift with broad spatula onto greased cookie sheet.
12. OPTION: Brush with cream and sprinkle with white or colored sugar, chopped nuts, coconut, or put a piece of candied cherry, a nut meat or big fat raisin in the center of each.
13. Bake 12 minutes until golden brown.
14. Cool on a baking rack.
According the recipe, a full batch will make about 1 cup of icing, enough to decorate at least 3 dozen cookies. We thin the icing down with water so we can “paint” the cookies. Using basting brushes, we will put on the first coat of icing and then decorate with drops and lines in different colors, using toothpicks to draw through the shapes to create swirls, hearts, or zig zag lines.
1 teaspoon egg white, dried, OR 2 teaspoons of meringue powder
1 ½ tablespoons (or 4 ½ teaspoons) water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon lemon (or almond) extract
1 cup Confectioner’s sugar – sifted
Food coloring optional
2 teaspoons egg white, dried, OR 4 teaspoons of meringue powder
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon lemon (or almond) extract
2 cups Confectioner’s sugar – sifted
Food coloring optional
1. In a large bowl, combine dried egg whites (or meringue powder), water, cream of tartar, and lemon (or almond) extract.
2. Add sugar and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form, 6-12 minutes.
3. Add water if needed to adjust icing consistency for piping or spreading.
If you want various colors for your icing:
• Separate icing into smaller batches.
• Add food coloring. For vibrant colors instead of pastels, use cake decorating food coloring paste instead of the food coloring drops.
Keep your icing from drying out while you work by covering it with a damp cloth or paper towel on the surface of the icing. Covered icing can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Beat again before using.