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Remembering Auburn’s Champion, Bill Peloza

Today is the opening day of the Auburn Farmers Market at Les Gove Park. While an exciting start to the summer season, it is also a bittersweet day, as Bill Peloza loved this day.  Like his own garden, he watched and nurtured the market grow from an idea into what it is today. As Bill passed away in April, the joy and celebration he brought to the market’s opening day will be carried on in the hearts of those who knew him.

It, unfortunately, will be some time before a proper memorial for Bill can be held. With this in mind, the Auburn Examiner has collected memories and stories from those who knew and worked with him.

Much of what you will read speaks to Bill’s civil work, and dedication to the City.  To give just a glimpse into who he was away from championing the city, here’s a tidbit his wife, Joyce, shared, “Bill and I had known each other only 17 days when we eloped to Idaho. We were married 62 1/2 years. He was indeed my other half.”

When asked for a word count, we told those contributing there was none – because memories don’t have limits. The below reflections are but a fraction of the impact Bill had on the City of Auburn, and the lives of those he knew, and touched.

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Bill and Joyce Peloza at the Auburn Farmers Market | courtesy photo

Read the City of Auburn’s memorial statement.

Nancy Backus, Auburn Mayor 

“Bill was a champion of the Auburn Farmers Market from the beginning, and his missing presence at this year’s opening day makes his recent passing all the more difficult. We continue to honor his memory by celebrating the spirit of community that the market emblemizes this year and for years to come.”

From the City of Auburn memorial statement: “Auburn has lost one of its greatest advocates. Bill was a strong believer in, and enthusiastic supporter of, his community and his country. I was proud to work with Bill during his 16 years of service on the Auburn City Council as he would search for new solutions to old problems. He loved celebrating the rich ancestry and culture of our City in a way that brought us all new appreciation for the importance of community. He always gave as much attention to the big picture as he did to the tiniest detail. Current and future generations will benefit from the legacy he has left us. I will greatly miss his smile and sense of humor, and will always be inspired by his servant heart,” said Mayor Nancy Backus.

Pete Lewis, Former Auburn Mayor

“To put it in context, you need to understand I worked with a series of extraordinary councils and with each election, the dynamic changed a little but Bill was a constant.

Bill was the man who could be asked to do a task and if he agreed it would be done. In asking Bill to do something I’d never put a time limit on it. A day, a month or a year, once Bill agreed to do something it would be done.

The best example was the Farmers Market. Two private groups, then the Chamber and then the Downtown Association all tried and failed.

Bill organized a committee. Not a city-sponsored committee but a group of people he knew and trusted who also wanted a Farmers Market. He organized and planned, held meetings, and gathered reams of information on how successful markets worked.

He picked the date it would open. He asked permission, after the fact, for where and when it would be held and made corrections when needed.

Along the way, he’d check in when he wanted something done, never a small thing, with a slight smile and a comment, “Oh, by the way, we want the Market to open this year but we need you to get Sound Transit to stop the buses for us so we can hold it in the Plaza. Shouldn’t be that big a deal, we need it there.”

When the market opened he and his band of volunteers were there every single time. Bill would talk to everyone asking what they thought, what they wanted, and then I would hear, “ Oh, by the way” and another request.

It was Bill’s market. Still is from my perspective because Bill would never let it fail.

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Bill Peloza at the Auburn Farmers Market | courtesy photo

Bill invited me out to the Auburn Municipal Golf Course when I first came on Council when he was President of the Men’s Golf Club- long before he got into politics and perhaps one of the reasons.
The clubhouse was a single-wide trailer with a septic system that backed up any time it rained and had a plexiglass awning over plastic tables and lawn chairs where they served hot dogs and hamburgers.

Our golf course is Bill’s vision and what you see there now is because he used every opportunity before he was on Council and after to ensure the great changes that took place.

Bill had a very dry sense of humor but rarely understood some of the jokes going on around.

This is a little risqué but one year towards Christmas there was a council meeting electeds and staff will never forget.

We had changed the lighting on the city’s Christmas tree. Bill loved it and went on at some length praising the mayor for ‘ his big golden balls’.

The meeting broke down completely as we were all convulsed with laughter and tears were streaming from our eyes as Bill continued to describe it enthusiastically several times over. The folks in the audience lost it as well and Bill’s wife Joyce almost fell out of her chair laughing, while Bill continued on and on.

On another occasion at a regional meeting Bill said something on the order of ‘ to get us folks in Auburn you need understand we are at the bottom end of two counties and that is our view looking up’. Bill was speaking about a map on the wall but the meeting did not get back to order for at least five minutes as everyone fell apart.

I used that example many times after that.

Bill’s attention to detail was famous and he read each line of any proposal or plan, ordinance or resolution and would comment on any mistake until it was corrected including a missing page number of the fact that a dollar figure did not include the final decimals .00. He added costs up separately and verified each amount to the penny.

Sometimes people would be frustrated with his minute attention to detail but just as many times we were kept from making a mistake because of his requirements for exact statements.

What is bothering me so much is in this time when there can be no acknowledgment of Bill’s impact on our city was so great. The Farmers Market, his sole and determined effort to change the golf course and the Airport and the need to be the Good Steward of the Green and White rivers, the work he did during the Howard Hansen Dam crisis, the Police Volunteers and so much more.

He was my friend and I miss him.”

Claude DaCorsi, Auburn Deputy Mayor 

“As a fellow city council member, a fellow Italian-American, and a fellow Jaycee, Bill was a true example of service to humanity. As Jaycees we followed our Jaycee Creed. The last line of the Creed is “Service to humanity is the best work of life.” That is who Bill was and what he stood for. His community involvement activities were vast and meaningful. His work on the council was packed full of local, regional, and national involvement. Bill guided me as a new councilmember. I served on various committees and boards with Bill and it was an honor to serve with him. Bill always had a friendly smile, a firm handshake, and everywhere we went from local events to national events it seemed like Bill knew everyone. Through his battle with cancer Bill never complained. He remained optimistic and positive. He carried on his work in an unstoppable manner. And at all functions, activities, conferences, and events his lovely wife Joyce was always with him. Well done Bill. Your legacy will live on. Rest in peace paisano. Ti Amo!”

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City officials and Miss Auburn, Miss Auburn Outstanding Teen gather for the 2019 Clean Sweep opening statements | for the Auburn Examiner

Bob Baggett, Auburn City Councilmember

“I am proud and honored to have called Bill Peloza a good friend for many years.  When I relocated to Auburn, WA from Houston, TX in 1998 as a Boeing Company employee, I attended my first City Council meeting as a new resident.  Bill was the first and only City Councilmember to walk into the audience to shake my hand and welcome me to the meeting.  Bill’s easy manner, dedication to service, and a strong handshake were the first of many great associations with the City Council and our Mayors over the next few years.

During a Seahawks rally in 2015 at the Auburn Ave. Theater, Bill approached me to run for City Council.  After much thought and with my wife’s approval, I agreed to run for Position 7 which was soon to be vacated by my friend, Councilmember Wayne Osborne. Bill became a staunch election committee advocate and a true mentor as I ran unopposed and was elected to the City Council.  Bill was the go-to-guy for all things water and sewer for our city, and he also attended many other regional meetings. I was amazed at the incredible stamina and endurance of this man, and it just didn’t stop there!!  Bill lived and breathed for our city each and every day and was the first to volunteer in any capacity for committees, boards, and any other service that required city representation.  His service as a Board Member for the National League of Cities (NLC), former Commander of the Local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization, and as our Deputy Mayor in 2019, are only a few of Bill’s accomplishments during his sixteen (16) years of service to our city and its residents, and with his loving wife, Joyce, by his side.  We miss you Bill and hope we can carry on in your footsteps for our city’s residents because you left big shoes that will never be filled.  God Bless my friend and Rest in Peace.”

Chris Stearns, Auburn City Councilmember

“Bill was a generous-hearted man who turned his love for our city and our community into action. He was so kind and so caring. He led an exemplary life and his presence on the Auburn City Council will always be felt.

When I joined the City Council, Bill asked that I take his place on the regional Green River salmon restoration initiative. At my first meeting, I learned that he was so passionate about the environment and taking care of our mother earth. He threw himself into salmon protection and saving their habitat along the beautiful Green River which runs through our town. He was so respected and loved. He leaves a legacy that we should all strive to live up too.”
(public statement posted on Facebook)

John Holman, Former Auburn City Councilmember

Bill Peloza and I were colleagues on the Auburn City Council for eight years. My first impressions of Bill were of a man who believed in representing Auburn on a much bigger stage. He served on an alphabet soup of inter-governmental boards and commissions. In King County, Washington State, and National level organizations Bill advocated for his hometown.

In my first year on council, I attended the National League of Cities (NLC) conference in the other Washington. Imagine 5,000 people walking about a convention center with name tags announcing where you are from. Frequently a stranger would walk up and tell me he knew somebody from Auburn and then proceed to tell me about how he knew Bill Peloza. Bill had been on an environmental committee that was working on the spread of invasive milfoil. The fellow said what I had come to expect, “I know someone from Auburn…Ah, Ah, Ah…The milfoil guy! Whatever the issue, Bill took it on with memorable enthusiasm.


Bill was fond of quoting former Mayor Pete Lewis: “If you aren’t at the table you are on the menu.” Bill volunteered for a host of inter-governmental assignments. He gladly accepted the less glamourous, but vital to our community’s health and wellbeing. Sanitary Sewer, Solid Waste, Mattress Recycling, hazardous waste reduction, South King County solid waste transfer station siting, Green River flooding, and salmon recovery. Let’s take just one of these and see how it impacts most all of us. Auburn‘s garbage is hauled to Cedar Hills landfill. Cedar Hills had been projected to be filled to capacity years ago. By implementing a mandatory recycling program and a voluntary mattress recycling program the life expectancy of the local landfill was extended to 2030. Without a local landfill we would be shipping our garbage by train to Central Oregon, just like Seattle and your garbage rates would double.


Bill was a practical environmentalist. When we voted to build a long-needed community center, Bill advocated for a solar demonstration project. We didn’t have the money to do it. I couldn’t fault Bill’s logic, if we as a government couldn’t serve as an example, how could we convince residents to step up. The compromise was to design and angle the roof to accept solar panels at some time in the future.

I joked, but it’s accurate, that everything I know about sewage, garbage, and the environment I learned from Bill. He knew I was a prolific reader. After attending one of his many meetings he would fill my in-basket with volumes of reference materials and handouts. Do you know how a mattress is recycled? I do, thanks, Bill.

Bill and I were colleagues, but that does not mean we agreed on everything. We publicly and sometimes passionately debated many things. And then we voted, because individually we were only one-seventh of a decision.


Bill was tough and courageous. I visited Bill in the hospital when he was first diagnosed. He openly discussed his diagnosis, expressed his displeasure with it, and told a few jokes. Bill beat his first bout with cancer. While still recovering from surgery and undergoing chemo he came back to work. Not just council meetings but ALL his many committee meetings. My in-basket continued to receive informative literature. I celebrated when he beat it and marveled at his strength, courage, and resilience. That strength and courage is why I voted for Bill to be Deputy Mayor in 2019.

Tragically, the cancer relocated and Bill underwent more treatment. He took the office of Deputy Mayor seriously, rarely missed a meeting, and never lost his sense of humor. Privately he would confess that the chemo was grueling and hard. But he was true to his responsibilities and saw the job through until the end of his term. Bill Peloza was the toughest, strongest, and most courageous gentleman I know.

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Auburn Councilmember and Former Deputy Mayor Peloza’s passion for banning mattresses from the landfill was well known at King County. They celebrated his work with a mattress cake | courtesy photo, City of Auburn

Dana Hinman, Auburn Director of Administration

“Bill and I have history. I grew up in Auburn and graduated from Auburn High School in the same class as his daughter Dawn – once he knew that I was an Auburn native and had a connection to his family we became fast friends. And that was Bill. He looked to find connections and to make a difference and was unfailing in that effort.

The memory of Bill that will forever be burned in my mind is his unwavering enthusiasm every time he walked into City Hall. It was a big smile and an enthusiastic, “How ya’ doin’ sunshine?!” Even when he was sick from chemo or his disease was progressing, he never stopped greeting the staff at city hall with a joyful hello and a positive comment. We will miss him greatly.”

Daryl Faber, Auburn Director of Parks & Rec and Auburn Rotary President 

“As the City of Auburn Parks Director and a fellow Rotarian, I had the privilege to work with Bill on numerous projects. His passion for the Auburn Community was delivered from his heart and his energy contagious. Bill spearheaded the approval of funding for the Auburn Golf Course Clubhouse as well as creating the energy behind the Auburn Farmers Market. He also was instrumental in finding funding and volunteering at numerous salmon enhancement projects along the Green River. Bill was also a big supporter of Auburns Clean Sweep, the White River Valley Museum, Auburn Senior Center as well other programs intended to make Auburn a better community.”

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Bill Peloza, with his wife Joyce, attend the Veteran’s Day Lunch at the Senior Center | courtesy photo

Radine Lozier, Auburn Senior Center Manager 

“I met Bill Peloza in 2004 when he joined the Auburn City Council. Part of my job at the  Senior Center was to coordinate with council members to attend special events.  Bill and Joyce not only attended, but they also volunteered to help at most of them. They helped serve pancakes at the annual Breakfast with Santa event. They served at the Senior Center Thanksgiving and Holiday lunches. They never missed buying a slice of pie at the 4th of July Festival. Bill’s favorite events were the ones for Veterans. He supported us as we grew our Senior Center Veterans luncheon attendance from 75 people to close to 200 last year.

He lobbied Veterans Services for on-site assistance to Veterans at the Senior Center. Senior Center participants looked forward to his talks when he attended the monthly Council Coffee Hours. Bill always brought handouts containing up to date timelines for projects in the city. He answered questions, shared laughs, and always thanks myself and my staff for doing a great job.  A few weeks before Bill passes away I was talking to Joyce on the phone. She said that Bill wanted to talk to me. He was weak but clear. He wanted me to know how much he appreciated the work we do at the Senior Center and thanked me for looking out for Joyce. Bill loved this community and he will be missed.”

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Mike Pellicciotti (L), Bill Peloza, and Mike Sepal (L) at a Federal Way Flag celebration | courtesy photo

Mike Pellicciotti, Washington State Representative – 30th District

“Councilmember Bill Peloza was a good friend and for years was dedicated to serving the City of Auburn. I will always appreciate how he was one of the first city councilmembers to step forward and support my campaign for the State House. I am so sorry to hear of his recent passing.

A U.S. Navy veteran, he was an active member of the Auburn VFW. I appreciate Michael Sepal sending me this photo of us (Bill in the middle) at a Flag Day celebration in Federal Way.”
(public statement posted on Facebook)

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Former Auburn City Councilmember and Deputy Mayor Bill Peloza and King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer | courtesy photo

Pete von Reichbauer, King County Councilmember

“Bill Peloza was a fighter all his life. He fought for his country in the US Navy. He fought for his community on the Auburn City Council and on numerous regional government bodies, working on everything from agriculture to flooding. And always in his corner of the ring was his best friend Joyce! RIP fellow vet and friend!”
(public statement posted on Facebook)

Fire Captain Jesse Mitchell and Chief Brent Swearingen, VRFA 

Bill was a 5-year member of the Valley Regional Fire Authority (VRFA) Governance Board.

In the memory below, VRFA Captain Jesse Mitchell recounts accompanying Council Member Bill Peloza to FireOps 101, a “day in the life of a firefighter” experience hosted by fire service unions across the state and designed to give elected officials a better understanding of the job.

“FireOPS 101 is an opportunity for elected officials to fight fire, use the Jaws of Life, search for missing victims, climb a 100-foot ladder and take part in various other tasks firefighters are asked to do. It is a long, grueling day on the training ground in Richland, Washington. Mayors Backus, Lewis, and Hill have all done it. Councilmembers Linnell and Partridge have gone. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take Councilmember Bill Peloza.

At the time, I had been a firefighter for a number of years and was in pretty good shape. While Bill would never tell you how old he was, he did have to fill out a medical release, and after doing the math, I determined he was over twice my age.

I am going to tell you that Councilmember Peloza ran me around all day in the hot eastern Washington sun. There were 50 other elected officials from throughout the state and Bill showed them all up. It wasn’t just the fact that he was doing the physical tasks, but he was also asking the hard questions in the way that Bill always did. “Why do firefighters do this? How much does this cost? Do we have this in Auburn and if not why don’t we have this in Auburn?” He was asking all these questions as the rest of us were catching our breath!

After FireOPS 101, Councilmember Peloza and I became friends. He always greeted me with a big smile, a firm handshake, and a ‘How are you doing, shadow?’ (He called me his “shadow” because during FireOPS it was my job to shadow him on the drill ground.)
Councilmember Peloza will be missed by the men and women that live, work, and serve the City of Auburn.”

“From a fire chief’s standpoint,” said Chief Brent Swearingen, “I think Captain Mitchell’s testimony tells us everything we need to know about Bill Peloza. He had the heart of a true firefighter. He was tough, smart, and fully engaged – the true model of the servant leader. He will be sorely missed, but we are all better for his having been here.”

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Bill Peloza participating in FireOps101 with VRFA | courtesy photo

Debbie Christian, Auburn Food Bank Director 

Bill Peloza: big handshake, ready smile, witty reparte’!

Bill worked hard at being a peoples man for all of the community. Sometimes he didn’t like what he saw – and he said it! Sometimes I didn’t agree! I was grateful he would listen. I was grateful he tried to understand why we didn’t agree. I was grateful that he was someone you could reach out to for help and he would try his hardest to solve the problem!

Bill lead the American Legion in a project of: replacing old and tattered flags at homes around town and then asking people to donate to the food bank for that flag! That year he raised $1395.00 in donations for The Auburn Food Bank!

Bill’s heart for Auburn was evident! He will be missed…..it’s up to the rest of us to fill the shoe prints he left behind.

Pat Bailey, Auburn Healthcare Consultant

“Admiration and Courage”


I met Bill and his wife, Joyce, many years ago and admired them as a couple, a great-looking twosome, always together working for the Auburn community. But, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I really got to know Bill.


It all began with his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Over the years, as a nurse, I was very familiar with his road ahead. He would drop by and keep me updated, starting with this decision to have the complex surgery, followed by endless oncology treatments. The good news, he said, was that the surgeon was a Navy man like him!


In the months and years that followed, I have never witnessed such a constant power of positive thinking like Bill displayed. He never blamed nor complained – just accepted what he was given and dealt with it with undeniable courage and infinite hope. His medical updates were factual and often with a twist of jest. On a rare occasion, he reported that the “last treatment was tough, but I’m much better now.”

His immaculate dress code never changed – always a suit, tie, hat, and coat, as needed, and a briefcase. He didn’t beat the cancer as he hoped, but he more than doubled the odds!

Kathleen Edman, City of Auburn Solid Waste & Recycling Division

“Councilmen Bill was our “champion” for waste reduction, recycling, and proper disposal of hazardous waste materials for the City of Auburn. He was always advocating for new programs to be created to help the environment and create a sustainable Auburn community and surrounding area. His energy, enthusiasm and infectious joy will be greatly missed.”

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Former Auburn Councilmember and Deputy Mayor Bill Peloza and former Tukwila Councilmember Joe Duffie at the Bowlake Transfer station | courtesy photo

Dustin Lawrence, Senior Planner Department of Community Development

“I had the opportunity to visit King County Flood Control District meetings at Mercer Island with Mr. Peloza. I would act as the City’s floodplain expert advising Mr. Peloza on any issues raised by the Flood Control District and how they would impact Auburn. When I was assigned this task, I assumed that I would be driving Mr. Peloza to Mercer Island and back for our meeting. I could act as his chauffeur since he was an elected official. However, he insisted on driving. This seemed great at first since I could kick back, relax, and not have to deal with the stress of navigating 167 or 405. Unfortunately, Mr. Peloza’s driving made me incredibly car sick. By the time we made it to the Mercer Island Community Center, I felt like I was going to vomit.

While sitting at the flood meeting and witnessing Councilmember Peloza pound his fist on the table and explain “how does this benefit Auburn!?”, I continually thought about the drive back to City Hall and if I would make it since I was feeling so awful. The clock struck four and the meeting ended. It was time for the sickening drive south to Auburn. While I felt incredibly sick, probably due to Mr. Peloza’s speedy driving style, I enjoyed our conversations about his time with Boeing and his passion to make Auburn a great place to live. I dreaded the car rides every time, but he had good stories that helped me get through drive and forget how sick I really was.”

Amanda Valdez, City of Auburn Events Coordinator

“As the coordinator for the Auburn International Farmers Market, I would like to thank Councilmember Peloza for his years of service and continuous support of the Market. Bill came down to the Market nearly every Sunday. He always made a point to thank our volunteers and was friendly with all patrons and vendors. Bill was always an advocate for the Market and was always looking for new ways to bring folks to the Market. We will miss his smiling face around on Sundays but we know his hard work will always remain with us.”

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Former Auburn Councilmember and Deputy Mayor Bill Peloza at the 2019 Veterans Day Parade | for the Auburn Examiner

Auburn VFW Post 1741

This post was made on the Auburn VFW Post 1741 Facebook page at the time of Bill’s passing. As not all have Facebook, we felt it worth sharing.

“Bill Peloza, my friend, my fellow comrade, great family man, we will miss you!!

“I am bringing you the sad news that retired Auburn Councilmember Bill Peloza has passed away.

Bill had a great passion for his community and was tireless in his service for Auburn, and SCA.

Bill served four terms on the Auburn City Council and most recently served as Deputy Mayor.

In his 16 years on the Auburn Council, Bill served on almost every committee you could think of including the Valley Regional Fire Authority Governing Board, the National League of Cities (NLC) Board, and the AWC Federal Legislative Priorities Committee and the Rail Transport of Hazardous Materials Committee.

Regionally, Bill served as SCA’s representative for the past several years on the King County Regional Policy Committee (RPC). He also served on the King County Metropolitan Solid Waste Management Advisory Committee (MSWMAC) – former Chair; King County Metropolitan Water Pollution Abatement Advisory Committee (MWPAAC); King County – Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA 9) – Green/Duwamish & Central Puget Sound Watershed Management committee (Vice-Chair) and WRIA 9 Watershed Ecosystem Forum (WEF) – Co-Chair; and South County Area Transportation Board (SCATBd) – former Chair.

As a Council Project, Bill organized the Auburn International Farmers Market (AIFM) after 2 years of planning as the Steering Committee Chair. The popular market recently celebrated its 10th season and continues to grow.

Bill was also a tireless advocate for veterans, a Navy veteran himself he has served as member & Past VFW Commander – Auburn All American Post 1741.

He was also a self-described professional volunteer giving his time and wisdom to Auburn Sons of Italy Lodge #1955; Auburn Elks Lodge #1808, Auburn Rotary Club.

Other organizations he volunteered for include: Chair of the Auburn Airport Advisory Board; White River Valley Museum Board of Directors; ACAP Board of Directors; Auburn Symphony Association; Auburn Police Department Volunteers; Boeing Management Association President (Retiree Chapter).

In addition, Bill served as President of the Auburn Green River Men’s Golf Club and Auburn Youth Soccer Club; He was a Commissioner for the South King County Soccer Referees Association; Junior Achievement Advisory Member & Instructor; Chinook Elementary School PTA Membership Co-Chair and Des Moines Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) President.

I will remember Bill for his commitment to service, his sly sense of humor, and his stylish hats!

Our thoughts and prayers are with Joyce and their family.”

If you would like to share a memory or story about Bill, please email [email protected] and we will add your contribution.

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