Former Seattle Deputy Mayor Robert (Bob) Joseph Royer, a longtime civic leader and champion for the city, has died at the age of 75.
Mr. Royer was diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare skin cancer, last year. He died Wednesday surrounded by family in Seattle, said his brother, former Seattle Mayor Charles (Charley) Royer.
Mr. Royer served as deputy mayor for his older brother from 1978 to 1983. He is remembered for helping broker a deal with British Columbia over the planned expansion of the High Ross Dam, as well as his work on conservation efforts at Seattle City Light and affordable-housing projects. A longtime Seattle resident, he was passionate about Pacific Northwest history.
“Seattle has lost a brilliant public servant, and the Northwest has lost a devoted son,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement Wednesday. “Bob Royer was a transformative force in the history of Seattle.”
Mr. Royer’s appointment to serve as deputy mayor for his brother was controversial at first, his brother recalled. But people soon saw the younger Mr. Royer as a political force of his own.
A front-page Seattle Times story in 1978 called the Royers “City Hall’s ‘two-man show,’ ” noting that Bob Royer was his brother’s closest adviser. He was trusted by the mayor when it came to policy matters and would often speak on his behalf. Staff in the mayor’s office described Mr. Royer as smart and impulsive, and said his idealism and energy were inspirational.
“I needed somebody I could trust and who was razor-sharp like my brother was,” Charley Royer said by phone Wednesday. “One of his strengths was his sense of humor and ability to get along with all kinds of people. There was a kind of magnetism about him that people trusted.”
Charley Royer recalled that his brother used this charm to confront criticism over his appointment.
“My brother, with his usual sense of humor, when asked about his qualifications to be deputy mayor, said, ‘Well, I slept with the mayor in the ’40s and ’50s,’ ” Charley Royer said.
Mr. Royer was born in 1943 and grew up in Oregon with his brother, who was four years older.
He attended the University of Oregon and worked part-time at a Eugene broadcast news station with his brother. After going to Nigeria with the Peace Corps, Mr. Royer graduated with a degree in history from Portland State University.
He moved to Seattle and worked at KING-TV before being drafted into the Army. From 1969 to 1970, Mr. Royer was stationed in Vietnam, where he produced television programming for troops while also moonlighting for the CBS News bureau.
Mr. Royer returned to Seattle and KING-TV, where he was soon joined by his older brother. Both men left the station in 1976 when Charley decided to run for mayor. Mr. Royer ran his brother’s campaign and wrote most of his speeches. He became deputy mayor after his brother was elected.
“The Royer brothers were at the center of civic life as Seattle grew from a sleepy port town to a global cultural and political center,” King County Executive Dow Constantine wrote on Twitter. “Bob was dedicated to Seattle — truly rooted here — and he tended this place until the end.”
One of Mr. Royer’s major accomplishments was negotiating a deal with British Columbia over the planned expansion of the High Ross Dam on the Skagit River. Raising the dam would have generated more power for a growing Seattle, but would have resulted in flooding over thousands of acres of recreational land and wildlife habitat in British Columbia. Under the deal, finalized in 1984, Seattle City Light agreed not to raise the dam in exchange for the right to purchase cheap hydropower from British Columbia through 2065.
When he left the mayor’s office in 1983, Mr. Royer told The Times he looked forward to having more time to write and fly fish.
Mr. Royer stayed busy, however, running his own public affairs firm focused on energy and infrastructure. He then returned to work for the city in 1999 as director of communications and public affairs for Seattle City Light. He helped the utility through the West Coast energy crisis in the early 2000s and the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.
After leaving the utility in 2006, Mr. Royer developed software to improve public safety and communications at Coastal Environmental Systems in Seattle. He joined Gallatin Public Affairs, where he became a managing partner.
Mr. Royer was also a local historian and enjoyed writing for his Northwest history blog, The Cascadia Courier. He was a long-serving board member for HistoryLink, an online encyclopedia of Washington state history.
In addition to his brother, Mr. Royer is survived by his wife of 17 years, Barbara Larimer; his children, Amy, Chloe and Ari; and two grandchildren.
The family will announce memorial service details in the future.