EVERETT — Bob Overstreet, a Boy Scout leader who pushed for transparency during three decades on the Everett City Council, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 80.
Colleagues inside and outside of city government remembered an energetic family man who always seemed to look younger than his actual age.
“He wasn’t about making a flash, but about getting the work done,” said Everett City Councilman Paul Roberts, who served as the city’s planning director when Overstreet was on the council. “He was a real champion for decency and doing the right thing for the right reason.”
Overstreet, who was first elected in 1977 and served with five mayors, felt strongly about public access to shorelines and citizen involvement, Roberts said.
He lobbied the federal government to pay to overhaul Everett’s sewer system to prevent sewage from spilling into Port Gardner during big storms and helped lay the groundwork for the revival of Everett’s downtown.
He would walk out of closed-door executive sessions if he felt the City Council was discussing business that should have been done in the open.
“He believed very strongly in open government and was not bashful if (he thought) we were not serving the greater goal of open government as well as we should,” Mayor Ray Stephanson said. Stephanson served with Overstreet on the City Council from 1982 to 1989, then for four years after Stephanson was elected mayor in 2003.
Overstreet also pushed for a greater role for regional government. He’d served as chairman of Snohomish County Tomorrow, a long-term planning organization that included public officials and the private sector. He’d held several other posts, including president of the Association of Washington Cities.
“He was a great champion of not only Everett, but cities in general,” Roberts said.
Overstreet once said he enjoyed the nuts-and-bolts work of public service, finding satisfaction in returning phone calls from constituents and listening to their concerns at community meetings.
“Everett has lost a legend,” U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said Wednesday. “Bob Overstreet was the consummate public servant, always thinking about the future of the city he loved and taking action to show it. His tireless commitment to the Everett community will not be forgotten.”
Supporting youth activities, including those his children were involved in, was important to him. He once showed up to a candidates’ forum in a Boy Scout uniform after hustling from one meeting to the next.
Larry O’Donnell saw his friend’s devotion to Scouting as well as Overstreet’s fitness on a 50-mile hike into the North Cascades in 1979. Overstreet had to leave the expedition early to make sure he was back in time for a council meeting and covered in one day what it had taken the others to trek in three.
O’Donnell was in his early 40s at the time. After that hike, he resolved to get in better shape, a commitment he’s kept for more than 35 years, thanks to Overstreet’s example.
Three years ago, Overstreet was still physically active, trying to recruit O’Donnell and others to play ping pong at the senior center.
A graduate of Washington State University’s forestry program, Overstreet shared his knowledge of plants and animals on the hikes with Boy Scouts. He’d worked for the state Department of Natural Resources and Scott Paper Co. as a forester. He taught forestry classes at Everett Community College and once ran a printing business with 38 employees. He was a high school football and basketball referee for many years.
O’Donnell said he will remember his colleague as someone who truly listened to people.
“He was willing to look at the big picture and how Everett fit into the big picture,” O’Donnell said.
Stephanson said he admired Overstreet’s leadership with the Boy Scouts and what he did for young people in the community.
“He was a strong-minded person and a person of great values and convictions,” he said. “I had a lot of respect for him both personally and professionally.”
Ed Morrow spent eight years on the City Council with Overstreet. He said his colleague did his homework.
“He was always thinking and trying to get things done that made sense,” Morrow said.
Instead of an elaborate retirement party from the council in 2007, Overstreet and his wife, Myrna, mailed hundreds of invitations encouraging people to make donations to the city parks foundation to buy sculptures for a planned downtown plaza next to the Everett Performing Arts Center.
Nearly a decade later, shortly before this past Christmas, a mosaic bench was installed at the Wetmore Theatre Plaza. A plaque in Overstreet’s honor will be added when the weather gets warmer.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; email@example.com.