The anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death caused me to reflect on his expectations that the “best and brightest” should serve their government.
Many current and former officials of both political parties felt called to serve by JFK’s words. As one who has been part of the political environment for more than 40 years and worked at the city, state and county level, I offer my own nominees for the “best and brightest” I worked with or saw up close.
However, I will not include anyone who currently serves in elected office. They shouldn’t get blamed because I think they are talented. Also, I want to retain the option to be critical of them in the future.
I did include a small number of current appointed staff. Lastly, I’m sure I have left out some worthy official who deserves to be on the list, and for that I apologize.
Best governors: Dan Evans, Booth Gardner, John Spellman, Gary Locke, Christine Gregoire. You don’t have to agree with their politics to appreciate how talented and committed to good government these leaders were.
Best city managers: Dick Thompson, great career started in Puyallup; Ray Corpuz, Tacoma, and a difficult departure shouldn’t detract from his rebuilding the City Of Destiny; David Moseley and Ken Nyberg, who led Federal Way through some difficult growing pains; Phil Kushlan, Bellevue, who is responsible for much of what Bellevue has become.
Best strong mayors: Charley Royer, Seattle, three terms, and a national leader; Norm Rice, Seattle, “Mayor nice” who got things done; Bob Anderson, Everett, who brought people together; Barbara Shinpoch, Renton, very sharp mind behind that humble exterior, great mentor, called her “mom;” Isabel Hogan, Kent, quiet almost invisible behind the scenes, but very firm hand on the tiller; A.J. Culver, Issaquah, started the modernization of his town; Tim Douglas, Bellingham, would have been successful anywhere.
Most charismatic: Charley Royer and Booth Gardner. Royer was better with a crowd, but Gardner was better one on one.
Best wit: Barbara Shinpoch. When Barbara opened a sentence with “I’m just a house wife, but…,” it was going to be funny and you would be reminded how smart she was. Booth Gardner had great stories. Seattle City Councilmember Cheryl Chow, who once tried to get me to trade a Nordstrom’s dessert for a regional transportation plan. King County Councilmember Paul Barden, from Federal Way, who wanted to trade a banana cream pie for some unincorporated land between Auburn and Federal Way. I said no. The area is now in Auburn, which is what I wanted. Of course, had I known I would be living in Federal Way 20 years later, maybe I would have agreed. That pie sure looked good. And former school superintendent Tom Murphy, who lived in that area, would have been elected mayor of Federal Way three years ago and the city’s history would be different.
Best council policy leaders: Terry Lukens, Bellevue, smart and creative; Mary Gates, Federal Way, brought reasoned South King County perspectives and was persuasive; Lynn Carmichael, Yakima, well liked and could find the common ground, understood how east and west needed each other; Beth Bland, Mercer Island, good political instincts; Bud Larson, Auburn, he was what every council member should try to be, completely honest and objective; Doris Cooper, Kirkland, asked the hard questions. Bill Stoner, Puyallup, huge Pierce County influence; Tom Trulove, Cheney, college professor, very smart; Phyllis Shrauger, Hoquiam, gave voice to an area that rarely gets it; Fred Jarrett, Mercer Island, smartest of a good crop of suburban leaders, lost race for King County Executive but came out a winner anyway, when he was appointed Deputy County Executive. Two judges were outstanding: Judge Pat Burns, who was also a Auburn council member, and Puyallup Judge Steve Shelton, who also served as a city attorney, council member and mayor of Fircrest.
Best regional leaders: Ron Sims, King County Executive, passionate, skilled leader; Joni Earl, Deputy Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit Executive Director, highly respected and quietly very effective with Washington, D.C., and Olympia; Mary McCumber, executive director, Puget Sound Regional Council, also served as director of growth management for the governor, knew how to mix transit and planning and lead people in the right direction; Charlie Earl, chief administrative officer, Thurston County, college president, smart and effective, impressive career; Paul Tanaka, Deputy King County Executive, fair and knew the county inside out, ran the county when Locke was running for governor; Tom Fitzsimmons, Assistant King County Executive, smart, tough negotiator; Martha Choe, Seattle, velvet glove, very hard to say no to, and now works for Bill Gates.
Best intergovernmental staff: Chuck Mize, Bellevue; Ron Main, King County; Bill Stafford, Seattle; Jim Justin, Association of Washington Cities. These four were so respected that they set the policies for most of local government for three decades.
Best policy staff: Pat Dugan, city and county finance director, regional planning director and city planning director, may have had the best all-around talent in the region; Pat Steel, budget, King County, incredibly smart and tough; Dan Clements, finance, Renton, Auburn and Snohomish County, smart and very creative, always found a way; Steve Lancaster, city administrator, Tukwila, and planning director at three different cities, who was low key, but elected officials listened. Len Chapman, Auburn Parks and Recreation, supervised four different mayors into building a great parks system.
Behind the scenes talent at King County: Caroline Whalen, administrative officer; Rhonda Berry, Assistant County Executive, and Dwight Dively, budget director. Also, former administrative officer Jim Buck, and Peter Hahn of Seattle Public Works. This group has an amazing mix of technical, managerial and political skills. They are and were at the top of their field.
There are many other elected and appointed government officials who work hard every day to make sure government runs well. It takes talent to be successful in government, which isn’t as easy as you think it is. Be sure and thank them.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn: email@example.com.