A historic review of former Tukwila mayors revealed the first Tukwila-born mayor was Stan Minkler, while the 11th mayor, John Strander, was born in Seattle in 1924. Seven out of the city’s first nine mayors migrated from another state or even country – with the first mayor, Joel Shomaker, born in Kentucky, the second mayor, Ernest Engel, born in Germany and third mayor, Jacob Gunter, a Swiss immigrant.
The 10th mayor of Tukwila was Charles Otis Baker, who was in office from 1947 to 1962, and stands as the longest serving mayor at 15 years. He was born Feb. 14, 1908, (the same year Tukwila incorporated) in South Carolina as the oldest of eight children. During his military service as a Marine, he was stationed in Bremerton in 1932. There met his future bride, Ruth V. Bishop. They lived in Seattle until they moved to Tukwila in 1940 where they built a new home on 57th Avenue South.
Tukwila had an assessed value in 1947 several thousand dollars lower than at the time of incorporation. During the 15 years Baker served as mayor, the city changed dramatically. The population increased to 2,251 and property values doubled. Changes were made through a comprehensive plan to improve streets and water and sewer systems, while undergrounding utilities and the construction of Interstates 5 and 405 had a profound effect on the small town of Tukwila.
Baker retired on April 2, 1962, and died May 8, 1980. Baker Boulevard was named in his honor. His guidance as mayor of Tukwila created the modern city seen today. He was known to have spent many late nights on city business and was chairman of the Architectural Control Commission for Andover Industrial Park. He played a key role in the movement that opposed the Port of Seattle plans to industrialize property in Tukwila. The proposal for a shopping mall gained support from local business leaders under Baker’s leadership. This was the birth of what was to become Southcenter.
Louise Jones-Brown is president of the Tukwila Historical Society, which operates the Tukwila Heritage and Cultural Center, 14475 59th Ave. S. The center’s phone number is 206-244-4478 and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org.