Counting down the Trump presidency

New Leschi homeowners maintain former resident's countdown sign

Counting down the Trump presidency

Counting down the Trump presidency

Former Leschi resident John Holt has spent the last two years counting the days until Donald Trump’s presidency ends. Those passing his old house on the corner of 31st Avenue South and South Jackson Street know exactly when that will be, thanks to a homemade sign above the garage.

“I just thought he was going to be a disastrous president, based on everything I knew about the campaign, and I wanted to do something to register my disapproval,” Holt said of his Trump countdown sign, which is updated daily and shared on Instagram: trump_counter. “Then I realized I had the opportunity to make some commentary as history was being made.”

A retired digital marketer, Holt made the sign himself.

“You manually do it every day, so when I designed it, it turns out that no one makes numbers that size,” he said. “I knew I wanted it to be relatively prominent, and I spent some time on the internet looking for big numbers.”

Holt ended up using aluminum signs he found at a hardware store, to which he added vinyl numbers. He then attached the numbers to teacup hangers.

“I probably didn’t get started until 20 days after he got inaugurated,” he said. “What I do is take pictures in bulk, because I didn’t want the new owners to send me a picture every day.”

Holt and his wife Susan purchased the 1905-built two-story house in 2005, and lived there for the next 13 years.

“Leschi is a neat neighborhood,” Holt said. “We really liked it over there. I think Leschi is a neighborhood people don’t necessarily understand.”

The Holts downsized and moved to Magnolia last year, selling their Leschi home to Lilly and Paul Onnen.

“They said, ‘Is the sign staying?’ And I said, ‘It can, for sure,’” Holt said. “They thought it was fabulous to have it, and we created a little agreement just to make sure it would remain timely.”

“That was one of the contingencies when we bought the home,” Lilly Onnen tells MPT. She and her husband moved from Sammamish. “There’s no way I would ever be a Republican, so you chose the right girl to maintain the sign.”

Onnen said she loves the historic house, with its views of Mt. Rainier in the winter and summer foliage.

“It has retained a lot of its original heritage inside the home, and it’s a real beautiful home,” she said.

The Onnens are keeping the sign updated every day, and Holt has made another countdown sign for his new Magnolia home, though it’s less prominently featured.

“My office faces the street, and it’s like watching theater,” Holt said. “Someone is walking down the street and they’re not paying attention to anything, and they see the sign and they stop in their tracks, and they take out their phone and take a picture and are on their merry way.”

Rather than go to Leschi every day, Holt records about 100 photos over the course of more than an hour; he keeps detailed notes. He knows the halfway point for Trump’s presidency was Jan. 21, and the counter hits zero on Jan. 20, 2021.

“We moved a year ago, but if I stand out there for a minute, people honk, cheer, yell, ‘Make it go faster,’” Holt said.

He once found a $25 gift card in the mailbox left by an admirer of the sign.

“That, to me, is emblematic of what living in Leschi is all about,” Holt said. “And it’s on an arterial, so we knew it would be a prominent place to show it.”

Onnen said someone smashed her windshield with a baseball bat shortly after an interview with KING 5 about the Trump counter.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I didn’t think we had any Trump supporters that lived near us,’” she said. “‘God, I hope they don’t.’”

But that didn’t change the Onnens’ decision to keep the sign ticking off the potentially final days in office for the 45th president.

“As long as he’s in that office, the sign will be turning numbers,” Onnen said. “Each day is just another day closer to the departure of Trump, and I don’t see how he ever could be re-elected.”

There’s also that agreement with Holt.

“We actually signed a piece of paper when we bought our home that we would keep the sign,” Onnen said. “So funny, but well worth it.”

The neighbors seem fine with the sign, and have offered to turn the numbers when the Onnens are traveling, she said.

Holt will continue to maintain the Instagram account; each post with a short essay about Trump, usually recapping what he did that day.

“Now, it’s become sort of a real labor of love. You know, it takes me an hour a day to write a post,” he said. “What a great coffee book it would make.”

The partial shutdown of the federal government has been a hot topic for the past month.

Onnen said she has a cousin who works for the FBI, which is having to prioritize cases because there isn’t enough funding to investigate them all.

“I didn’t use to pay as much attention as I do now,” Holt said of his interest in politics, “and now I am paying a lot of attention. It is fascinating to me how many norms are being broken and how celebratory people are.”