His laugh leaps like his Shelby Cobra at a light on Colby Avenue.
He's one of the most colorful and long-standing leaders in Snohomish County government.
Today he says goodbye.
Weikel is retiring after 20 years in the top ranks of county government. He served as a top adviser and manager to three Snohomish County executives and held the No. 2 or No. 3 spots in the county for years.
Behind the scenes, he was a dealmaker praised for listening when it would've been easier to talk, and for shaking hands when it would've been easier to walk away.
"He's the best invisible friend this county ever had," former County Executive Bob Drewel told a crowd of 150 at a retirement party for Weikel. "He's done more on behalf of parks, the Evergreen State Fair, public works, you name it."
Weikel helped shepherd construction of a new $175 million county campus in Everett. He negotiated battles over garbage and transfer stations, building a new sewage treatment plant and myriad labor contracts.
Officials call him a straight-shooter who had the trust of the County Council, administrators and community and union leaders.
"I like to tell them where I'm coming from up front," Weikel said. "If they really trust that you are going to do what you say you'll do, you're so far ahead in discussions.
"If you're going to live in this town for 62 years, you can't be playing games."
Behind his "Mona Lisa smirk" is real talent, County Councilman Dave Somers said. "I'm hard-pressed to think of someone who has had as positive an influence on the county."
Officials said he was a tough but honest negotiator.
"He can say 'no' in a friendly way," said Sheriff Rick Bart, who said he "butted heads" with Weikel while negotiating budgets.
"When you got down to it, he was a good bottom-line guy," Bart said.
His ability to build trust "raised the bar of integrity in the county," County Councilman John Koster said.
Weikel worked as an executive office administrator under County Executive Willis Tucker. He rose to deputy county executive under Drewel and later served in the same positionunder current executive Aaron Reardon.
In 2005, Weikel became special projects director and interim parks director. He is credited with the work to bring emergency management under the county's wing and negotiating a $70 million deal that will buy parks and roads in exchange for King County's Brightwater sewage plant being built in Maltby.
"Gary understood the nuts and bolts issues that make government able to deliver services and did his best to make sure the county was well positioned," Reardon said.
"He's a gem of a man, and I thank him for his service to this county."
It's easy to see the kid in Weikel. He loves fast cars and races at the speedway in Monroe. He goes to rock concerts and children's shows at the Events Center with his children and grandchildren.
At 62, Weikel still sports the bodybuilder physique he sculpted in his 20s, and keeps fit by walking up to 50 miles around town every week.
He's a fixture at the Evergreen State Fair, where he parks his RV so his grandkids can take air-conditioned naps while visiting the fair.
"Curly-fries," said a beaming Weikel, regarding his attraction to the fair.
Long before he joined the county, Weikel worked for Weyerhaeuser for 10 years. He then became a union leader for mill workers and loggers and rose to president of the county and state labor councils.
Soon after, Willis Tucker, Snohomish County's first county executive, wooed him to oversee county departments.
Weikel's first day working for the county was Feb. 1, 1987.
Since the beginning, his guiding principle was to listen and find common ground.
"My mother taught me to treat people like I wanted to be treated," he said. "That's been my belief all along.
"For this (county) government to be successful, you have to have all three branches communicating," Weikel added. "They don't have to agree, but they have to be communicating."
In closed-door meetings, Weikel was able to maneuver officials to his way of thinking, but still make them think it was their idea, Somers said.
"Consensus is what I strive for," Weikel said. "It doesn't always have to be my way."
Though he's leaving the county, he will continue to work as a booster on the fundraising panel for Providence Everett Medical Center and the board that oversees the Everett Events Center.
Even so, officials said he will be missed.
"Those are tough shoes to fill," County Councilman Gary Nelson said. "He certainly made his mark on county government and a positive mark that will surely be missed."
Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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