Hamilton mourns its mayor
By Jason Miller
Hamilton Mayor Timothy Bates passed away Dec. 16, leaving behind a legacy of 27 years spent caring for the town’s citizens.
During his tenure, Bates increased and improved the town’s water line infrastructure, managed several floods, and helped to secure and administer millions of dollars in federal, state, and local grants to improve the community and its citizens’ quality of life.
Bates preferred to work quietly, behind the scenes, shying away from public acknowledgement of his work. He disliked getting his picture taken and kept interviews with the media brief.
Beneath that private exterior, however, was a leader who used common sense to make decisions—which sometimes ran contrary to town policies.
“He was very easy to work for, very understanding,” said Hamilton Town Clerk Susan West-Mani, who had worked for Bates since 2008. “He was very well loved.”
Road to Hamilton
Timothy Allen Bates was born to James and Carol Bates on Oct. 14, 1950, in Gillette, Wy. The family moved to Sedro-Woolley in 1960. Bates graduated from Sedro-Woolley High School in 1969 and married his wife, Cheryl, about a month later.
The couple found their way to Hamilton, where Bates worked in the family’s meat processing plant for more than 20 years, until it closed. He then started Hamilton Market & Deli in the same building. Today, many Hamilton residents begin their days at the deli, catching up on the latest news over breakfast.
Mark of a leader
Hamilton bears the stamp of Mayor Bates above and below ground, according to Councilman Dale Bonner, who has served on the council for five years.
“He accomplished a lot of projects during his tenure,” said Bonner. “A tremendous amount of water system improvements, street paving—he was able to obtain quite a number of grants to help us accomplish that.
“He helped us get our gazebo built several years ago. We relocated our fire station and town shop out of the floodway—those were new buildings.”
Bates also worked closely with Janicki Industries during its efforts to build in town. And the skate park exists in part because of his efforts.
He wasn’t an overbearing personality, said Bonner. “He was a person who didn’t micromanage. He let the clerk and town employees do their jobs,” he said.
Bates’ brother, Nick Bates, is Hamilton’s fire chief. He said working with Mayor Bates was no different than working with any other supervisor. Cut from the same mold of common-sense leadership, Nick Bates said the two of them “knew exactly what had to be done, and we did it, especially with regard to flooding. Tim and I always got along well.”
The town’s new fire hall was completed before Nick Bates became chief, but afterward, the two worked hard to improve the department. “After I came on, we added a new fire truck and other new rigs. [Tim Bates] was on the fire department too, so we went out of our way to make sure the people of Hamilton had fire protection.”
During Mayor Bates’ early years in office, he connected with Burlington City Planning Director Margaret Fleek, who has worked with the town on a pro bono basis for the past 20 years. She fell into step beside Bates and helped him and the town navigate growth management issues, move the town’s well, and manage floods.
“He was a heck of a flood fighter,” Fleek said. “He was always there for the town. He was a straightforward person. He will be missed and he will be hard to replace.”
Skagit County Commissioner Sharon Dillon said she always admired Bates’ “true devotion to Hamilton. He cared deeply, as we all should, about the town he lived in and worked for.”
A service and celebration of Mayor Bates’ life is planned for Jan. 5 at 1 p.m., at the Sedro-Woolley Community Center. The community center is located at 703 Pacific St. in Sedro-Woolley, behind the senior center.