Mukilteo citizen watchdog, 83, spoke for ‘the facts and the truth’

“It is fitting that the public see (Charlie Pancerzewski’s) name when they get up to the podium for public comment,” the mayor said.

Charlie Pancerzewski (Courtesy of Pancerzewski family)

Charlie Pancerzewski (Courtesy of Pancerzewski family)

MUKILTEO — At nearly every City Council meeting, Charlie Pancerzewski was there.

The man with the thick white hair arrived early, sat in the front row and stayed to the end. When called for public comment, he would walk purposefully to the podium and use every minute of the five allotted to make a point.

He was on top of everything going on in Mukilteo.

Whether or not you agreed with him, there was no debating he’d done his homework and that he cared deeply about his community.

Pancerzewski died Dec. 15. He was 83.

At Monday’s Council meeting, the public speaker podium where he steadfastly stood countless times will be dedicated with a plaque in his name.

“It is fitting that the public see his name when they get up to the podium for public comment,” Mayor Joe Marine said.

Marine plans to do a call for public comment and say Pancerzewski’s name several times in his honor. The moments of silence that follow will be time to reflect on Mukilteo’s most engaged citizen for over five decades.

“He brought the facts and the truth. We’ll be channeling Charlie on certain decisions, that’s for sure,” council member Steve Schmalz said. “Charlie was one of the smartest men I ever met. He had this ability to rattle off numbers from the budget or past policies.”

Pancerzewski knew politics from the other side as well. He was appointed to fill council vacancies two times, in 1972-73 and 1998-99, and served on the Board of Adjustments.

He got involved when he and his wife, Gayle, moved to Mukilteo with their daughter, Cindy, in 1969.

“How many 30-year-olds decide they are going to be that committed civically?” Cindy said. “Not that many people do that and stick with it for a lifetime.”

Her dad also started her young.

“I was a little kid being dragged to council meetings,” Cindy said. “I was 7 or 8, sitting in a folding chair with a bunch of adults at a council meeting. Dad brought a tape recorder in case he needed to hear something again. So I got to operate the tape recorder.”

He tried to get neighbors involved. One would hide so he wouldn’t bug her to attend.

“He said, ‘I can’t get people to come. I want them to come. It is so important,’” Cindy said.

He also wrote emails to reporters and letters to the editor about issues.

“People might not have always agreed with his position,” she said. “He came from a devoted and heartfelt place. He wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. He was trying to better the place that he loved.”

Pancerzewski grew up on a small farm in Enumclaw. As a teen, he landed a bookkeeping job where word spread that he did a quality job. He found himself doing the books for several businesses, including a farm supply store. One of his favorite stories was of driving their Case tractor down the middle of Main Street to the bank, with bags of receipts sitting at his feet.

He earned a degree in 1961 from the University of Washington, where he met Gayle. He had a long career as a certified public accountant.

Gayle was raised in Langley, which became one of his favorite places. He was a board member of the South Whidbey Historical Society.

He and Gayle made a second home in New Zealand in retirement where he once again became a farmer. They had an olive orchard and became well known for award-winning olive oil. Gayle continues to reside in Mukilteo.

Many people only saw Pancerzewski at the podium as a serious citizen watchdog.

“He had a good sense of humor,” his daughter said.

She said he was a dedicated Seahawks fan. He enjoyed Dixieland jazz, duck hunting, big roller coasters, good food and old-time fiddle music.

Monday’s podium dedication is at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Come, and stay for the meeting. Speak up.

“We need more people to be involved, to be able to give perspectives and challenge what we say,” council member Jason Moon said at a prior meeting. “There is going to be a gap and we need people to step up. I challenge the public to be the next generations of Charlies.”

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443;; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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