Power broker Bob Gogerty dies; key in light-rail, stadium drives
Bob Gogerty, a behind-the-scenes political strategist who orchestrated funding for light rail and the Seahawks stadium, died over the weekend at age 74.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Bob Gogerty, a Seattle son who became one of the city’s most influential and connected citizens, has died.
Mr. Gogerty, 74, died in his sleep after going to bed on Friday at a hotel in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where he and his wife had just bought a house.
Mr. Gogerty, a political strategist and business consultant, was known as the behind-the-scenes power broker in many of the elections, policies and initiatives that shaped Seattle into the cosmopolitan city it has become, said his wife, Sandy Heavey.
Mr. Gogerty played a role in preserving Pike Place Market as a city landmark. He was behind the successful initiative to get funding for light rail.
And perhaps more important to the city’s sports fans, he was the person who orchestrated public approval and funding for the new Seahawks stadium.
“He believed football would be saved in Seattle and that Paul Allen would be involved and this would become a world-class sports city,” said Lee Keller, the president of The Keller Group and a friend and associate of Mr. Gogerty’s. “And it’s proven to be the case.”
“Seattle wouldn’t even be what it is today without Bob,” she said. “There isn’t much that happened in Seattle that he wasn’t involved in.”
Sandy Heavey said he told her almost 40 years ago that there would one day be a tunnel beneath Third Avenue.
“He said, ‘We’ve got to get those buses off the street,’ ” Heavey said on Sunday.
Mr. Gogerty, who cofounded the business-consulting and public-relations firm now known as Gogerty Marriott, counted some of the state’s largest corporations, such as Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, ARCO and Seafirst, as customers. The Pickens Plan and AT&T were among his national clients.
As a political strategist, he chaired Mike Lowry’s campaign for Washington governor, directed Tony Knowles in his successful run for governor of Alaska, and helped Norm Rice become mayor of Seattle.
In addition, he served as deputy mayor under Wes Uhlman.
Keller said Mr. Gogerty was motivated by a challenging proposition and a desire to create policy that would have positive long-term effects on the city.
When he agreed to take on the job of convincing King County residents that a second stadium would benefit them, he was coming from behind in the polls.
Keller said he asked her to take a six-week leave from Weyerhaeuser, where she was working at the time.
“And I said, we already gave you one,” she said, referencing the Mariners stadium, which was new at the time.
“And he said, ‘That’s what everybody says. That’s why I need you,’” Keller recalled.
Keller said the team running the football-stadium initiative was up 24-7 for those weeks, plotting and strategizing at El Gaucho — where Mr. Gogerty was known to enjoy an Irish whiskey or two — and having a ball.
”We turned that thing around and squeaked it out,” she said. “Then Paul Allen bought the team and the rest is history.”
Mr. Gogerty was considered honest, open and fair. He was a Democrat but was sought by Republican politicians as well.
He was an enthusiastic backer of former Gov. Lowry’s decision to name a Republican to chair the state’s Health Services Commission to implement a health-care bill.
Mr. Gogerty explained in a 1993 Seattle Times article: “For Lowry to put somebody who opposed health care (reform) as the chair tells me and should tell everybody a lot of repair is going on.”
His wife said that finding common ground and common values was where Mr. Gogerty excelled.
“He loved polls. He always said that when done right, they help you find the intersection of values of your customer and your audience, between what you are trying to accomplish and public opinion,” Heavey said.
Mr. Gogerty was born in Seattle on April 8, 1940, to an alcoholic father and a fortuneteller mother. He was essentially raised by his oldest brother, Pat Gogerty — who founded Childhaven, the nation’s first day care, which has evolved into a not-for-profit child-care facility for abused children.
He enlisted in the Marines at 16 after being kicked out of a handful of local schools, his wife said. After returning from the service, he attended the University of Washington, dropping out his junior year because he was bored. He landed a job as a counselor at Luther Burbank Home for delinquent boys, where brother Pat worked.
His early childhood and later tutelage under his brother made him compassionate, kind and caring, said his family and friends.
“He helped everyone,” said his wife.
Mr. Gogerty had not expected to die just yet, she said. He was working out three times a week and they had just bought a house in California and were planning a trip to Lisbon and North Africa soon and another to Singapore and Dubai later, she said.
He would have liked more time, she said. Nevertheless, he would not have been able to say he had not had a great life.
“He spent every day living life and living it big,” she said. “That’s one thing that really gives us comfort.”
In addition to his wife and brother Pat, Mr. Gogerty is survived by: his daughters, Kris (Ian) Northrip, Angie Gogerty and Carrie Rose; his grandchildren, Katie Cain, Tim (Randi) Rose, Emily Gogerty-Northrip, Caleb Northrip and Ellie Rose; and his great-grandson, Jonathan Rose.
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or206-464-8983. Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.