Bob and Dona Anderson at their condo in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle in 2004. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

Bob and Dona Anderson at their condo in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle in 2004. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

Bob Anderson, Everett’s first ‘strong’ mayor, dies at 91

“The consummate diplomat” pushed for public art and helped sell Everett for Boeing’s 747 plant.

EVERETT — Dave Anderson recalled answering plenty of phone calls meant for his dad growing up at the family’s former home at 920 Hoyt Ave.

He remembers one particular call when his father, Bob, then Everett’s mayor, told him to speak with the person for a while.

“Somebody complaining about their neighbor’s barking dog or something. After 15 minutes of that, I said, ‘Let me give you to my dad,’” said Dave, 68, and now living in Texas.

Dona Anderson, Bob’s wife for over 70 years, remembered regular dinnertime calls from a neighbor.

“We always knew who it was,” she said. “He would go on and on and on.”

Phone in hand, Bob Anderson would have his notepad ready to jot down whatever issues were relayed and the next day “solve the problem,” Dave said.

Robert “Bob” Carl Anderson, the city’s first elected “strong” mayor who pushed for public art and helped sell Everett as the best choice for Boeing’s 747 plant, died earlier this month. He was 91.

Anderson died of cancer July 8 just three days before his 92nd birthday at his home in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.

Back row: Ken Anderson and Bob Anderson. Front L to R: Rick, Helen and Roger Anderson. All are gone but Rick, who lives in Portland, Oregon. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

Back row: Ken Anderson and Bob Anderson. Front L to R: Rick, Helen and Roger Anderson. All are gone but Rick, who lives in Portland, Oregon. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

In his obituary published in The Daily Herald this weekend, Anderson was described as someone who loved to row, run and sail, an avid reader and member of a monthly book club, and a car fanatic.

“We’re just still kind of under his spell,” said son Doug Anderson, 65, of Seattle.

Born July 11, 1929 in Portland, Oregon to Carl John Anderson and Helen Anderson, Bob Anderson was raised in Seattle most of his life, graduating from Roosevelt High School and the University of Washington, where he and Dona met. They were married Dec. 25, 1950 and eventually moved to Dona Anderson’s hometown of Everett, where they raised their four children.

Anderson was a military veteran with six years of service, including active duty during the Korean War with the Navy’s air service.

Anderson was first elected Nov. 5, 1968 under the new city charter, a municipality’s founding document. It changed the executive office from three commissioners to one executive to run city hall’s daily operations.

He served as mayor until resigning in October 1977 to become an executive with Olympic Bank. In 1978, Gov. Dixy Lee Ray appointed him as director of the Washington State Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

He later helped form the Washington State China Relations Council as a founding president and director and became a senior advisor.

Bob Anderson on a ferry on the Yangtze River during a trip to China, a country he visited often to build cultural and trade relations with. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

Bob Anderson on a ferry on the Yangtze River during a trip to China, a country he visited often to build cultural and trade relations with. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

“I’m sad to hear of Mayor Anderson’s passing,” Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said in a statement. “Among his many legacies, he helped strengthen our aviation sector with the establishment of the 747 Jumbo jet plant in Everett, which has had a lasting effect on our city and region. I appreciate his years of service to our residents and community.”

Anderson’s profile loomed large for Ray Stephanson, who became the city’s longest serving mayor from 2003-2017.

“What was exciting to me having been born and raised in Everett, when Bob was mayor it was like our own version of the Kennedys,” Stephanson said. “Bob was a classy guy, really forward-thinking.”

The two worked at General Telephone and Electronics (GTE) at the same time prior to Anderson becoming the city’s mayor.

In his tenure on the City Council and as mayor, Stephanson said he would call Anderson for advice, especially on economic issues.

Being mayor meant he was gone a lot, but Anderson still found time for parenthood and was happy to be home for dinner with his family, even if neighbor-constituents called now and then.

“When we were kids he did all the dad things, teach us to mow the lawn, do all the chores, throw a baseball,” Doug Anderson said. “He was a good teacher.”

Said son Dave Anderson: “My most notable memory of him was falling asleep with a stack of papers in his lap, which more than likely were staff reports for an upcoming City Council meeting.”

Bob Anderson speaks with a reporter at the Snohomish County Courthouse after election results were published in November 1972. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

Bob Anderson speaks with a reporter at the Snohomish County Courthouse after election results were published in November 1972. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

Anderson was mayor when downtown areas, once the hubs for cities, were losing retailers to sprawling malls on the outskirts. It led him to try turning downtown Everett into a car-free pedestrian market for a time. Doug Anderson said he remembered being in high school and practicing with his rock ‘n’ roll band in the basement when his dad came downstairs and told them all to pack up and come with him to perform at the market.

“We set up and had a great time,” Doug Anderson said.

Around the same time, Everett leaders started their push for a Navy base which was later championed and secured by former Mayor Bill Moore.

“He understood business, he understood the fact that we had to diversify our economy,” Stephanson said of Anderson.

But his business savvy was coupled with an innate sense of service, said Bob Drewel, a former Snohomish County executive

“Bob was one of those elected officials… who believed government could get things done, that there was a balance between the environment and the economy,” Drewel said. He also described Anderson as “the consummate diplomat,” positive and pragmatic.

Being the first executive in charge of daily city operations meant Anderson had to create an organization that flowed to and from his office, Drewel said.

“I learned a great deal from Bob, and I’m not the only one who I think would call him a mentor of excellence,” Drewel said.

Those qualities sprang from his ability and desire to listen and learn about people he met, his family said. In a crowd, Bob Anderson would make sure to include everyone in the conversation.

Bob Anderson around the time he graduated from the University of Washington. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

Bob Anderson around the time he graduated from the University of Washington. (Courtesy of the Anderson family)

“He was always very attentive,” Dona Anderson said.

Doug Anderson said his father and grandmother shared those traits, all centered around graciousness.

Another focus for Bob and Dona Anderson has been supporting art as a public benefit. Anderson helped secure funding for public art as a percentage of city capital projects and later helped the $7 million fundraising effort to build the Schack Art Center in downtown Everett.

“Bob was an incredible leader for Everett on many fronts,” Everett City Councilwoman and Schack Art Center Executive Director Judy Tuohy said. “What he did for the arts in Everett was just incredible.”

She cited the metal sculpture, “Surf II” by Stanley Wanlass, near the Port of Everett’s 10th Street boat launch, as one example of what Anderson brought to Everett. It was dedicated July 8, 1976 and installed on Colby Avenue near California Street, but was moved to the waterfront in 1983, according to Port of Everett records. Ever since, city leaders have added to Everett’s public art portfolio with at least 37 sculptures.

“Those kind of people don’t just happen all the time,” Tuohy said. “He’ll be deeply missed but his contributions and what he did for our community and our state will go on forever.”

Dona Anderson, an artist, recalled her husband gladly enrolling in an art class at Everett Community College with her. For one assignment, she said he grabbed a blank canvas, set it on the easel, opened a can of red paint, threw it on the white space, then added black paint. They hung the piece in their homes, including their Queen Anne condo.

“People when they come in say, ‘Who did this?’ I say ‘Bob did it,’” she said with a chuckle. “It was such a fluke.”

He is survived by his wife Dona and their children, Dave, Carol Kafer, Doug, Dick, and his brother Richard T. Anderson, as well as five grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Anderson’s family asked people to donate to the Schack Art Center in his memory.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11 at First Baptist Church of Everett, 1616 Pacific Ave., with a reception to follow.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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