Bob, On Action

Linda Burton posting from Olympia, Washington – “This is my park,” said Bob, stooping over to pick up a bit of trash. We are walking in Heritage Park, just downhill from the Washington State Capitol, and Bob has been pointing out the various features of this crowd-pleasing spot by Capitol Lake. “You mean from when you were Mayor?” I asked. “Oh no, way before that,” was his answer. “I started working on this park years ago.” If they put a picture by the words “citizen activist” in the dictionary, it would be a picture of Bob Jacobs. I think his picture would be there twice, in fact, also by the words “live wire.” Bob is energetic, enthusiastic, and concerned. Never one to talk about what “ought” to be done, Bob jumps in to get it done. He believes that good government, and a good community, come about through citizen involvement, and he is one fine example of an involved citizen. Yes, he was Mayor of Olympia, for three terms, back in the 90’s. That tells you something about this man’s interest in his community. And today he’s active on more committees and boards than you can count on two hands, one of them the Board of Capital Cities USA. We are meeting today to talk about the capital city of Olympia, and about how you get things done, whatever the vision.

I first met Bob in the early 90’s when we both worked for the state of Washington; there was a major budget crisis that year, and the Office of Financial Management was beset with the task of figuring out how to increase state revenues. Bob represented OFM and chaired the committee, composed of someone from each of the five top revenue-producing entities in the state; I represented the University of Washington. The committee gathered monthly in Olympia to share ideas; to pinpoint current processes and look for ways we could improve. Bob was the “Aha Person;” it wasn’t that he paraded his ideas; rather, he inspired ours. Which is why I invited him to be on the Board of CCUSA last year.

As I drove across town to the restaurant Bob suggested for lunch (a waterfront spot, to show off one of Olympia’s priceless views), Bob told about each place we passed and how it came to be; the fountain over there on 5th, Percival Landing, the Farmer’s Market. He advised me through the round-about (don’t enter when someone else is in the lane); he explained what will happen with the Douglas fir logs stacked at the Weyerhaeuser dock (it’s low tide now; ships head out for Japan on an incoming high tide).

Our lunch was lively good; even though I’m hacking with a lingering cough and pausing every other bite to blow my nose. Bob was unfazed; ate heartily and listened to the Journey tales. He asked about the capitols; “Do any others have a stretch of land leading to a waterfront? And how did they protect it, if they did?” His pet project now (or one of them) is all about waterfronts and views; the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation has set the goal of correcting the “mistake by the lake” – a highrise building from years past that sits at the end of Capitol Lake – by purchasing the land, removing the building, and creating Vista Park, as the architects had in mind when the capitol was designed. Bob and his wife both serve on the Board of OCPF; they’re both active in Friends of the Waterfront too, another group interested in preserving Olympia’s many waterfront treasures. Good news last week; the owner has agreed to sell the land; fundraising is next.

Bob knows his city’s history, but thinks about the future most. “I’ve lived here more than thirty years,” he said. “Olympia is my home, and I want to see us use our resources in ways that benefit everyone. What we do today affects everything we have tomorrow. Let’s don’t mess it up.”

Outside, I had another coughing fit; good grief, the sun is shining and it’s warm as toast; I want this pesky cold to go away. Bob danced around the Scion in the parking lot. “Do you want me at the front, or back? Or by the side?” I analyzed the angle of the sun and aimed the camera at the moving target that was Bob. I can put this picture in the dictionary by the words “live wire.” And “thoughtful” too.

 The Capital Cities USA bio for Board Member Robert E Jacobs

Bob Jacobs is a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania but has made his home in Olympia, Washington for more than 30 years. He was Mayor of the city from 1993 through 1999, and continues to serve his community as a citizen activist in a number of ways. He is a Board Member of Friends of the Waterfront and the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, both dedicated to preserving, protecting and improving the area around the state capitol and the stunning Budd Inlet waterfront.

Considering himself “a full-time advocate for good government policies and a positive future,” Bob worked in state government as a public policy and budget analyst, beginning in Juneau for the State of Alaska. He moved to Olympia in 1974, where he was with the Office of Financial Management for the State of Washington for nineteen years.

His educational background includes a BA in Liberal Arts from Columbia University, a MBA from Stanford University, and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Alaska. His first career post was with the US Army in Germany, working in counterintelligence. He lived in Germany for five years; it was there he met and married his wife, and where their first son was born.

Currently Bob owns and maintains a number of rental properties in Olympia, but for recreation he is an avid swimmer, competing and winning medals in the Washington State Senior Games. He and his family particularly enjoy Olympia’s many parks and waterfront venues. His two sons and three grandchildren live in Washington state.


About Olympia Capitol Park Foundation

About Friends of the Waterfront

About Washington State Senior Games