The County Council voted Monday to rechristen the Evergreen Events Center the Gary D. Weikel Events Center, in honor of a former deputy county executive who had a big hand in shaping the county parks system. That included major projects such as Willis Tucker Community Park outside Mill Creek and the Centennial Trail.
The recognition caught Weikel by surprise; Councilwoman Stephanie Wright had invited him to the fairgrounds Monday on the pretext of taking a tour.
When Weikel arrived, he saw his family there, including his wife, county Auditor Carolyn Weikel, two children and two grandchildren. The Weikels listened by phone as the council, in council chambers in Everett, voted unanimously to approve the name change.
Weikel called the tribute humbling.
"None of this, of course, gets done by one person," he said. "It's a lot of people working together to make things happen."
The fairgrounds events center, with more than 33,000 square feet, first opened in 2011.
Weikel, 68, is an Everett native, a 1963 Everett High School graduate who was born at what's now the Providence Regional Medical Center Everett's Pacific campus.
His 20-year career at the county began in 1987, under the county's first executive, Willis Tucker. He served as deputy executive under Bob Drewel and briefly under Aaron Reardon.
For nearly 30 years, Weikel has been a fixture at the annual Evergreen State Fair, where he has served as the county's honorary ambassador.
"He's been a great mentor and a friend," said Council Chairman Brian Sullivan, who sponsored the motion to rename the building.
Councilman Dave Gossett said that while he and Weikel had worked on numerous issues during 20-plus years, "the thing he loves the most is parks and the fairgrounds, so I think this is very appropriate."
"Indeed," added Councilman John Koster.
Weikel finished his county career with a stint as acting parks director, before retiring in 2007. At the time, Drewel called Weikel, "the best invisible friend this county ever had."
A meeting room at the county's Willis Tucker park also bears his name.
Weikel wasn't the only one surprised by Monday's announcement. So was Reardon's office, which oversees the parks system.
Though he once worked at the highest levels of Reardon's administration, Weikel was one of several public officials during the past year who encouraged the Washington State Patrol and other agencies to investigate his former boss.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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