A leader worth emulating

Bob Drewel exemplifies the best in public life. He lives his values, demonstrating that politics, when practiced right, is the art of the possible.

Drewel manages it all with self-deprecating humor (another contradiction) confounding cynics and cultivating allies. By luck or grace, he found that sweet spot, a vocation that crosses his talents with the needs of his community.

“In over 20 years of public service to our state, Bob has been a great partner and sounding board for ideas,” said Sen. Patty Murray. “His leadership on transportation issues in the Pacific Northwest and his work around Everett redevelopment, the tanker contract, and Sound Transit expansion — just a few of his countless accomplishments — will leave a lasting legacy. His reputation for sound judgment and creative problem-solving lent credibility to every project he worked on.”

After 12 years as Snohomish County executive — and before that, president of Everett Community College — Drewel took the reins of the Puget Sound Regional Council, the intergovernmental planning group that noodles transportation, population and economic data. It is eye-watering, critical work, informing Democratic and Republican policymakers alike.

The PSRC has been the ideal fit for someone dedicated to harmonizing diverse interests. As Bill Ruckelshaus said, the first step to conflict resolution is just getting everyone in the same room. And few are better at corralling than Bob Drewel.

“Bob’s talent, leadership and passion has resulted in a host of initiatives and community programs that have helped make our communities strong and vibrant, caring, safe, welcoming and economically viable,” said former Herald Publisher Larry Hanson. “He has challenged our public, private and nonprofit institutions to never turn away from our responsibilities to build an inclusive, supportive fabric of life for all our people.”

Hanson could just as well be describing himself, but it underscores a Drewel virtue: Partnering with like-minded souls. Don’t fret about who receives the credit, as long as something meaningful gets done. Do some good and have fun doing it.

As county executive, Drewel emulated the late Gov. Booth Gardner’s MO of “management by walking around.” He delegated and cajoled. His leadership style is predicated on faith in others. It’s one of many reasons his colleagues loved him, naming the county administration building in his honor.

Drewel marks his retirement this month in the consummate Drewel fashion: A celebration Monday night in Seattle to benefit the Human Services Fund at the Greater Everett Community Foundation. The fund was started in 2005 to honor Drewel and has awarded more than $175,000 in grants to local human services organizations.

A life in full. And Bob Drewel still has miles to go.

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