Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ruth Bogue Baker

Ruth Bogue Baker (right)

Seeing the obituary for Ruth Bogue Baker in Wednesday, May 16, 2013, "Peninsula Gateway" reminded me of how quickly people and their contributions to the history of a community fade.  Other than stooping to read the City of Gig Harbor's historical marker about Ruth Bogue at the head of the harbor, what do today's residents remember about her? 

Perhaps a short recap of some of the highlights in Ruth's history is in order.

Ruth Magnuson was born in Wenatchee on January 20, 1925 and was raised by her parents in Seattle.  She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1942.  She started her higher education at the University of Washington in pre-law but following her marriage to Dr. Charles Bogue in 1946 dropped out of school.  

Ruth and her husband moved to Gig Harbor in 1952 when their first child was born.  As a newcomer to a new town, Ruth became involved in community activities -- when time allowed. One such activity was with the Peninsula Orthopedic Guild.  When her youngest child entered school, Ruth, too ,decided to go to school and enrolled at Puget Sound University. She studied history and German.  

Ruth said in an interview with "The Peninsula Gateway" that "My real involvement with anything civic began when I read in the paper that the city was going to build a new city hall…and they were going to allocate a 14 foot by 14 foot square area for a library.  I called (city hall) and said surely we could do better than that.  Jake Bujacich (then mayor) called me up later and said 'I agree - and furthermore I appoint you chairman of the library board.' "

Ruth's efforts culminated in a new library built on Judson Street, the building which now houses the Chamber of Commerce (next to West Marine. The "new" city hall was located in the building that is now Timberland Bank on Judson.)

Six months passed and a vacancy came up on the City Council; Jake again called Ruth and asked her to fill the vacancy.  She accepted and retained the council seat through three elections.  In 1978, Jake ran for a position on the Pierce County Council and when he was elected, the city council appointed Ruth to fill the remainder of Jake's  unexpired  term.

Ruth's desire to be the best and most effective mayor she could be caused her to contact some of her friends at Evergreen State College in Olympia for help.  And help they did.  They created a course called "Transition to Mayor" and Ruth spent one day every two weeks in Olympia.  Evergreen State College assigned two student consultants to come to Gig Harbor to help her identify and solve city problems.  Ruth graduated in 1978 with a degree in Urban Planning from Evergreen.

The first thing Ruth and her consultants did was to reorganize the workings of city hall -- department by department.  The Evergreen consultants performed independent analyses and provided suggestions for correcting potential problems.  As with most change, those dealing with personnel were the most difficult for those involved.  But the result of all the hard work made the mayor's position a managerial position of people and systems and no longer a full-time job.  Time during Ruth's tenure was then spent on staff meetings, public relations, trouble-shooting, presiding over council meetings, and interpreting council's intent on various items.

After 17 years serving the needs of the City of Gig Harbor, Ruth retired at age 60.  She had a long list of personal goals she wished to accomplish - travel and live in Sweden, her ancestral home  (she had studied Swedish for nine years), visit southeast England, hiking, bird-watching, reading, photography, ...and the list went on.

Be sure to stop by the Ruth M. Bogue Harbor Viewing Platform at the head of the bay. The city built this viewpoint to honor Gig Harbor's first woman mayor for her service to the city from 1978 to 1985.

Note:  Ruth and Charles Bogue's marriage ended in divorce and both remarried.  Ruth's marriage to Gus Baker ended with his death in 1992.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.


  1. "Other than stooping to read the City of Gig Harbor's historical marker ..." should read "Other than stopping to read...'

    Please accept apology for the error.

  2. Hi. When the Gig Harbor library was built on Judson in the 1960s, the new city hall was on the south corner of Pioneer Way and Tarabochia street. It was a cinder block building. The next city hall, on Judson, was built in the late 1970s.