Alcott made us better | Inside Politics

Bob Roegner. Contributed photo

The Mirror is what its name says: a reflection of the community it serves, for better or worse, be it sports, elections, weather, parades or violence. The Mirror tells its residents what is happening in the corner of the world most important to them. That will continue, but the hand on the tiller will change.

After nine years, publisher Rudi Alcott is leaving. He has been promoted within the company so he won’t be completely gone, but the lack of his daily presence ensures things just won’t be the same. I’m an interloper who has watched, as the unseen mouse in the corner, his influence on the place we call home.

Though he did develop a love for Gonzaga basketball and enjoys both Husky and Seahawk football, Alcott remains a true son of the Hoosier State, where he learned the Midwestern values of honesty, ethical behavior and character that have guided his life and career. I watched as the staff changed, grew and matured under Alcott’s leadership. Residents couldn’t see, but should know, that Alcott’s goal to bring the news of the community into your homes in the most honest, fair and impartial manner possible was always met. There are no shortcuts on ethics, and while complaints are seriously reviewed, the honesty and accuracy of the story was always the final arbiter of what was printed, no matter which politician raised a fuss. To watch integrity unfold on a daily basis is something to be honored and admired.

The annual Washington Newspaper Publishers Association awards, of which the Mirror was always a leader, demonstrate how Alcott took the newspaper to new heights of journalistic success.

The Mirror staff is a collage of hard-working, high-energy, driven-to-success people with different backgrounds, styles and personalities. It takes a special manager to harness the talent and blend the best of each person into a cohesive unit with a common goal. Alcott is such a manager. His style is straightforward and clear, while his humor is old school, subtle and infectious. His helpful advice to a young reporter of “don’t screw this up” is reminiscent of Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Madden’s advice to his team prior to the World Series, “Try not to suck.” But it is also carries the unstated warmth of a boss who loves, respects and backs his employees as a true mentor.

That affection was most evident when seen with the staff and families of two former Mirror employees, Eddie and Mary Lou, both of whom have passed away, but who are still remembered with fondness.

Alcott tackled problems and made changes. He created an editorial board of five citizens to ensure community feedback was part of the deliberative process for political endorsements. He challenged the grain of conservatism and attacks on political correctness and saw value in a diversity section to ensure all community voices had a chance to be heard, not just the loudest ones.

At a time when the need for a free press has never been more important, he has been a zealot when he discovered City Hall trying to do the public’s business in secret. A strong believer in hard work, his early years gave him a compassionate understanding of those in need and the homeless. With words as his business, he lent an ear and support to those whose business is caring for others. That commitment became the “Citizen of the Month” feature.

Alcott developed and grew the “Best of Federal Way” program to recognize those who serve the community selflessly every day. A businessman, he was elected to The Federal Way Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and served as its treasurer.

His “frugal” nature was both legendary and humorously inaccurate to those who know him.

He preferred the term “prudent.” Less known is the considerable financial support he provided to community organizations to help them achieve their goals.

Behind his “all-business” façade was a warm heart who would demand the best from his team, while fighting to support them. His staff will tell you they didn’t stay because of the high wages. They stayed because Alcott always had their backs in a profession that is much more difficult than it might seem.

His humor was understated and delightful. He created the concept of “Mr. Federal Way,” an old style reporter whose sardonic wit prods public officials, and it became one of the most popular columns with readers, though less so by some in power. Brian Wilson, the former chief of staff to Mayor Jim Ferrell, actually refused to answer questions posed by Mr. Federal Way, even though they originated from real residents, exposing City Hall’s thin skin.

Alcott lives in Maple Valley, but his heart was here in Federal Way. He was so deeply committed to making Federal Way a better place, several residents urged him to move here and run for mayor.

He demurred, as he preferred to work quietly behind the scenes and worried more about getting things done than who got credit. His putting-others-first approach was recently rewarded as Ferrell presented him the “Key To The City,” in recognition of his service to the community.

Nine years have passed too swiftly. Alcott will be missed, but the standards he set will remain.

Good luck Rudi. Tell Angie and the boys we thank them for sharing you. We are better people and a better community for you having been here.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former Auburn mayor and retired public official. He can be reached at bjroegner@comcast.net


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