Former Auburn mayor Chuck Booth and his wife, Leila, left, with then Auburn mayor Pete Lewis and his wife, Kathy, at an event at the Auburn Avenue Theater in October 2007. REPORTER FILE PHOTO

Former Auburn mayor Chuck Booth and his wife, Leila, left, with then Auburn mayor Pete Lewis and his wife, Kathy, at an event at the Auburn Avenue Theater in October 2007. REPORTER FILE PHOTO

Auburn mourns the passing of former Mayor Chuck Booth

Fierce, fiscal conservative had a big heart for the community

Admirers remember former Auburn Mayor Chuck Booth for coupling a fierce, fiscal conservatism with a big heart for the community’s disadvantaged and hurting.

For putting in long hours at work, arriving at the office by 5 every morning to dictate his correspondence and move any paperwork from the preceding day off his desk.

Little ones now grown big recall the friendly man, generous with the Tootsie Roll Pops when they visited City Hall.

Booth, the city’s last mayor who didn’t own his own computer, died shortly after noon at home on Saturday, Aug. 3. With him at the time of his death were his wife, Leila, and family. He was 84.

Between January 1994 and December 2001, Booth served two terms as Auburn’s mayor. For more than 30 years before that he was deputy superintendent of the Auburn School District.

Booth, said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, served with grace, class, dignity, and such a penny-pinching heart that he was reluctant even to let his executive staff buy paper and pencils.

“The work that Chuck did in this city in the 1990s was significant, at a time before we had the recession, Chuck was one who believed in holding on to every penny,” Backus said.

Pete Lewis, who followed Booth as Auburn’s mayor, credited his predecessor’s tightness with a buck for putting the city in such good shape that it was able to weather the recession that started in 2008.

Councilmember Largo Wales remembered the man who’d hired her in 1982 to be a teacher in the Auburn School District, and the enduring legacy of his service.

“For 30 years, he led our school district into what continues to be one of the better school districts in the state,” she said. “During his tenure, he was responsible for vocational ed, secondary ed, elementary ed. (Among) his favorite things were special education and the counseling department, health services, federal programs, alternative ed, just to name a few. … The mayor has spoken about his great heart and his compassion for people in need, and you can see this in the programs that he led for 30 years.”

Booth, Wales noted, was the first person to work in the morning and the last person to leave. Yet his door was always open, and he always had time.

“He gave of himself professionally. He gave from his heart. He belonged to numerous organizations in the community, from his church to Rotary to our Lions and to all of the organizations out there. … And he was very, very thrifty. We used to kid him that he was wearing the same loafers in 1982 as when he retired,” Wales said.

Backus said Booth was also a strong believer in the power of partnerships, who tapped the relationships he’d formed during his years with the school district to get things done at the city, via productive partnerships with the Muckleshoot Tribe, the Cities and Schools Forum, and the FAST Corridor grade-separation projects.

Indeed, it’s an eye-opener to consider all that opened during his tenure at City Hall: SuperMall of the Great Northwest, today the Outlet Collection; the Muckleshoot Casino; Emerald Downs; the new Auburn Senior Center; and the C Street grade separation project that now bears his name.

And, Backus noted, Booth’s determination that he and anyone else who wanted to should be able to spend their final years in Auburn was what spurred the construction of Wesley Homes on Lea Hill.

“Without him, Wesley Homes would not have been built,” Backus said …”He was a dear friend, and he will be greatly missed.”

Memorial services will be announced later.


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