Cancer claims well known Island County Republican

Jeff Lauderdale

A well-known Coupeville resident and former Island County commissioner candidate died at his home Jan. 23.

Robert “Jeff” Lauderdale succumbed after a year-long struggle with prostate cancer. He was 65 years old.

Lauderdale moved to Coupeville in 2006 with his wife, Julie, after an impressive career in the Navy. He was a “mustang officer,” which means he started out as an enlisted member of the Navy who was offered the opportunity to earn a degree and become an officer. He served on ballistic-missile submarines, was the officer in charge of Operation Looking Glass and was the executive officer of a fleet ballistic missile system. He retired as a commander in the U.S. Navy submarine force.

On Whidbey Island, Lauderdale continued to look out for the welfare of others.

“He was a warrior when he was in the Navy,” Julie Lauderdale said, “and he continued to be a warrior for the citizens of Island County.”

Lauderdale was ever on the lookout for government waste and overreach; he championed open government. He wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers and spoke his mind at many public meetings.

He attended Island County commissioners’ meetings every week for two years before deciding to run for Island County commissioner in 2012. He ran as a Republican against Democrat Helen Price Johnson, who won after a lively campaign.

Julie said he didn’t let up on his public involvement and continued to speak out; for example, he scoured the Island Transit budget after its financial breakdown and offered pointed comments to board members.

Freeland resident Chelle Brunke said he will be missed by many in the community.

“He was a good friend,” she said. “He really was an exceptional person. He had such a great sense of humor.”

According to his obituary, Lauderdale was born on Aug. 16, 1950 and raised in Fresno, Calif. He graduated from Bullard High School in 1968, attended Fresno City College for two years then enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1970.

Lauderdale served the Navy from 1970 to 1996. In 1974, at the end of his enlistment, the Navy offered him an opportunity to become a commissioned naval officer and he accepted. He completed a bachelor of science mechanical engineering degree at the University of Idaho and was commissioned as an ensign. During officer candidate school, he traveled to Washington, D.C. to interview with Adm. Hyman Rickover and was selected to serve in the Submarine Naval Nuclear Power Program.

Lauderdale served on the USS Will Rogers, USS John C. Calhoun and as executive officer on USS Von Steuben. His command tour was director of the Air Command Battle Staff at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., where he supervised nuclear strike capabilities from the air as the “Looking Glass” team chief, according to his obituary.

Assigned shore tours during his career included Vanderbilt NROTC, where he taught Naval Engineering, Operations and Navigation, and the Pentagon, where he helped defend the multi-billion dollar Trident Submarine Program budget on the hill.

In lieu of flowers, his wife asks his friends to consider making a donation to Whidbey General Hospice Foundation, 101 N. Main St., Coupeville, WA, 98239.