Earl Dutton, who played big role in Everett Events Center, dies

EVERETT — Earl Dutton served 18 years on the Everett School Board, but his mark on his community extends far beyond education. A decade ago, Dutton was on the ground floor in planning Everett’s events center.

He continued to serve as president of the board of directors that manages the <a href="

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“>Everett Public Facilities District, which owns Comcast Arena.

Earl Dutton, who lived most of his life in Everett, died Sunday. He was 82.

“He was a big part of getting the event center built in Everett,” said Gigi Burke, another member of the five-member Public Facilities District board.

Dutton’s role in what became Comcast Arena officially began in 2001. That’s when the Everett City Council approved the appointment of a board, including Dutton, to oversee the process of bringing a venue for shows and sporting events to the city.

“We teasingly used to call Earl president for life,” said Kim Bedier, general manager of Global Spectrum, the company that manages Comcast Arena. Dutton had an arena suite, and not only watched Silvertips hockey games but rock shows. “One of the funnier ones was Guns N’ Roses,” she said. “They didn’t start until 11:30 p.m., but he hung in there.”

Dutton’s civic engagement went back decades.

He served on the Everett School Board from 1973 until 1991. It was in the mid-1980s that minor league baseball came to Everett. First the Everett Giants — and now the AquaSox — have called Everett Memorial Stadium home. It is an Everett School District facility.

“Earl was throughout his life a civic activist,” said Pat McClain, Everett’s executive director for governmental affairs. “You couldn’t find a civic event where he didn’t play a significant role. Look at the AquaSox. If not part of the fabric of the community, he was the stitching.”

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said Monday that Dutton was a great supporter of the city and served on many boards. “You could always count on Earl to bring his big heart and measured approach to the table,” Stephanson said.

In 1986, Dutton received the Henry M. Jackson Citizen of the Year Award from the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce. In the 1990s, he served on Snohomish County’s Charter Review Commission and on the Everett Salary Commission.

A father of seven and a 1946 graduate of Everett High School, Dutton also ran his own business. After attending Everett Junior College, he worked as an electrician and was hired by Lord Electric Company. Mike Dutton said his father bought the Seattle office of Lord Electric and renamed it Dutton Electric. He sold the company in 2000.

Dutton was born Jan. 16, 1929, on a dairy farm near Arlington, but the family soon moved to Everett. As an electrician, he traveled early in his career. He met his future wife in Ohio. Earl and June Dutton were married in 1954. When June Dutton died in 2007, they had been married 53 years.

Earl Dutton is survived by six children, sons Mike, Jim and Robert Dutton; daughters Patty Pote, Jo’Ann Work and Kippy Murphy; by 18 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, June, and son, Steve.

“He was a great dad and a great grandfather,” Murphy said.

The Duttons were neighbors of the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. Jackson and his wife, Helen. “My parents adored Earl because he loved to talk common-sense politics, to brainstorm solutions to Everett issues, and — unlike all their other neighbors — to provide useful, free guidance about upgrading and maintaining the wiring of an old house,” said Peter Jackson, the late senator’s son.

Jackson said that without Dutton, along the late Bill Moore, a former Everett mayor, and McClain, “there would not be a Naval Station Everett.”

Jackson said Dutton was “Everett’s ambassador” when the USS Henry M. Jackson submarine was commissioned in Groton, Conn., in 1984, the year after Sen. Jackson died.

Mike Dutton said his father’s first real step into public life was the school board. “He had seven kids. I honestly think that was a big part of it,” he said. Mike Dutton’s wife, Kristie Dutton, is leaving the Everett School Board this year after 12 years.

“I think it was a serious interest in education for kids,” said Don Rider, a member of the Everett School Board in the early 1980s. “He really had his finger on the pulse of what was happening in the community. I think it was the fact he was a businessman. That was one role he played on the school board — his business leadership.”

Fred Safstrom, executive director of the Everett Public Facilities District until 2006, said Dutton provided critical leadership on issues of location, design and management of the new events center.

“He was a consensus builder,” said Safstrom, now deputy executive director of Housing Hope.

Before the arena was built, Dutton pushed for its location on Everett’s Hewitt Avenue despite controversy over the removal of some historic buildings. In 2001, Dutton explained his thinking, likening old buildings to trees. “Sometimes you’ve got to thin the crop to keep it alive. If we keep every old building, we’ll let the town die,” Dutton said.

A memorial service for Earl Dutton is scheduled for 2 p.m. July 5 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 215 Mukilteo Blvd. in Everett.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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