Rob Mattson, long-time Ballard District Coordinator, is retiring.
Rob Mattson, King of Ballard, bids neighborhood adieu
Dedicated Ballard District Coordinator retires
Ever since Rob Mattson started working in Ballard in 1973, under Mayor Wes Uhlman's new Community Service Center program, he has quietly pulled the ropes and levers behind the curtain, forming throughout the years one of Seattle's strongest communities.
Now, Rob is retiring from his position as Ballard District Coordinator.
According to a letter he sent out to community members, he has sold his house in Ballard and on Nov. 2 he will be headed over to Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, a small city of 24,000. His plans? "Not work," he says a little devilishly. But in all seriousness, because Rob is Rob, he'll probably get involved in community matters again, either attending Oak Harbor City Council Meetings or writing cranky letters to the local newspaper.
In his letter, he writes: "This has not been an easy decision for me. I have worked for the City of Seattle since October of 1971. Although I had experience working in several city departments in a variety of capacities, I have spent most of my public service career as the City’s representative to Ballard and other northwest Seattle neighborhoods. I can truthfully say this has been a rewarding career and that each of you have contributed to making it so. Although I have mixed feelings about this decision, I know it is in the best interest of my family; and will allow me to chart a new course for how I spend the rest of my life."
To put it mildly, if Rob had never served the function he had, Ballard would have been hard pressed to form the community it has. For every community group, for every Ballardite with a vision of making the neighborhood a better place, Rob has been there offering a guiding hand.
But Rob would never boast about his own accomplishments. When the Ballard News-Tribune did a profile on Rob last April, he said of his work: “I’m sort of that background guy behind the curtain. That’s the way I like to do it. I tell my coworkers that, I tell citizens that. It’s more important I leave a legacy of people who are savvy, able to do things and able to speak up."
Now, it will be time to see if his legacy of a committed community holds up. The newly elected president of the Ballard District Council, 36th District Republicans' Kirk Robbins, will be the first BDC president to act without the guidance of Rob in the council's 25-year history.
Rob tried to get away without any kind of fanfare in his honor. In his letter, which he sent out in the last minute before what would be his last BDC meeting, he said, "For those of you who have worked with me, you know that I am not a highly public person. I prefer to accomplish what I get done behind the scenes, and provide support or strategic advice to those around me. So, although I am not exactly slipping out of town; I will not make a major fanfare of this announcement."
But Rob can't get off the hook quite that easily. At the BDC meeting, cake was brought in his honor, and he was crowned (literally, with a paper crown) as "King of Ballard." Now former BDC President Catherine Weatbrook choked up in tears when she announced his retirement -- he failed to make a note of it during his turn at the microphone -- and many attendees of the meeting thanked him for his contribution to the neighborhood.
And now, the BNT has written yet another article about him, which will probably embarrass him once again. But he deserves every bit of praise he gets. This young reporter, for one, is sad to see him go.
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