Bob Roegner, former mayor of Auburn and longtime political columnist of the Federal Way Mirror, was honored with a Key to the City on Jan. 4.
Roegner served three terms as Auburn’s mayor from 1982 to 1993. In 2006, he began writing a weekly column for the Mirror, “Inside Politics.” His political watchdog editorials were the source of entertainment and education, or annoyance, for hundreds of community members and public officials up until his final column ran in October 2022.
“Bob has been the voice of our local politics for more than 15 years. While we may not have always seen eye-to-eye, as you may have read, I always respected and admired Bob for his passion for our community, for his service and love of our city,” said Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, who presented the award on Tuesday night.
After Ferrell was elected as mayor 10 years ago, he said he tried to “wrangle” Roegner into taking on the city administrator role for Federal Way, but to no avail.
“He has, in the last 10 years, given me advice, counsel and a nudge when necessary,” Ferrell said. Despite his close ties with many public officials through King County, Roegner never shied away from criticizing a politician’s wrong moves, misguided intentions or oral flubs. Or highlighting their accomplishments.
The plaque holding the key notes Roegner’s continued service to South King County. He was mayor for 12 years, and also served as assistant King County auditor and King County elections director. When he was mayor, he was chair of the Association of Washington Cities (AWC).
He spent 10 years on the Highline College Board of Trustees, and also sits on the board for the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce.
Roegner was in charge of the search committee that recruited Federal Way Chamber CEO Rebecca Martin to the city in the first place, she said on Jan. 3.
Martin noted that while some may be drawn to Federal Way for jobs or business, many reside in the city because of family members and friendship connections.
“It is my great honor to be the CEO of the chamber, but more so to count Bob Roegner as one of my best friends,” she said.
Roegner made friends and foes as a political columnist, but that came with the territory. State Rep. Kristine Reeves (D-Federal Way) said one of her first conversations with Roegner was about the importance of a news organization’s role in holding public officials accountable.
Roegner’s writing has “brought a relationship of integrity between our public officials, between our press, and quite frankly, it has brought integrity to the public that we serve to ensure that we put people at the center of all of the work that we do,” Reeves said.
At the Federal Way City Council meeting on Tuesday, Roegner donned a pin-striped suit with a red and white striped tie. As much as he is known for his political hot-takes, his fashion sense is also admired by many.
“As owner of the Midway Cleaners, Bob was my best customer,” said former Federal Way Mayor Michael Park, whose joke was met with laughter from the room. Once a week, at least, Roegner drops off or picks up his dry cleaning.
A simple errand always gave way to a few minutes chatting about local politics, rumors or gossip, Park said before thanking Roegner for his leadership.
Rudi Alcott, publisher of Sound Publishing’s Everett Daily Herald and former publisher of the Mirror, was awarded a Key to the City in 2017. Speaking to Roegner and the crowd on Tuesday, Alcott said he likely wouldn’t have advanced as far in his career without the support and leadership of Roegner.