Alumni Spotlight - Hank Robinett

Tireless advocate for Snohomish County

By Dana Chrysler
Everett Community College Alumni Outreach Specialist

Beneath Hank Robinett's soft spoken exterior lies a man of accomplishment and quiet resolve. A former U.S. Marine Corps aviator, Hank's contributions to Snohomish County over the last 40 years are myriad.

Currently a partner in the real estate development firm of Boyden, Robinett & Associates, Hank graduated from Lake Stevens High School in 1948 and promptly began attending Everett Junior College (now Everett Community College or “EvCC”).

“My mother said, 'If you want to get ahead in this world, you've got to get an education,'” he remembered. “My parents impressed the importance of school on me.”

Another motivating factor to attend college was the Naval flight training program.

“I knew that I wanted to fly. If I had two years of junior college, I could become a cadet in the Naval/Marine Corps flight training program,” he grinned. “So, that's what I did.”

After graduating from EvCC in 1950, Hank embarked on a 20-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, eventually retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1970.

“In that period, I piloted different types of aircraft and one of the tours was in transports (cargo planes), which took me all over the world.”

In 1954, Hank met his wife-to-be, Donna, while stationed in Hawaii.

“She didn't know anything about the military when I met her,” he admitted. “In fact, she grew up in Snohomish, and I grew up in Lake Stevens, but we didn't know each other in Washington.” [Laughing]

Hank admits that, although his world travels were adventurous, they also made for a tougher lifestyle.

“The Marine Corps didn't allow us to bring our dependents along. When we went overseas, we went alone,” he explained.

Fortunately, Donna proved to possess one of the most important traits of a military wife: adaptability.

“A lot of times, in support of operations, I was flying to Europe to support the fleet,” said Hank.

Donna stayed behind and kept the home fires burning at Marine Corps bases in Cherry Point, North Carolina, Quantico, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

In order to finish his college education, Hank attended night school at Chapman College in Santa Ana, California, while simultaneously working as a Marine Corps aviation instructor in El Toro, California. His duties sometimes required him to work in Mohave, Arizona, some 350 miles away. With characteristic determination, Hank came up with a creative way to handle the long distance commute to school.

“I had a great skipper who believed in education, so, in the afternoon — after I was through with my flight instruction for the day — there was usually an airplane that needed 'testing,' so I'd take the airplane, fly to El Toro, go to school in Santa Ana, get up early in the morning, and fly back to Mohave. It was fun,” he chuckled.

After completing his third year of college, the Marine Corps picked up the tab for Hank's fourth year and sent him to school at the University of Omaha, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1961.

Hank made a decision early on to retire from the Marine Corps after 20 years so that he could pursue a business career.

“I always wanted to try the business world, so I started out as a stockbroker with Dean Witter when I got out of the service,” he said. “They had a wonderful six-month training program in San Francisco, and I learned a lot.”

After three years as a stockbroker, Hank moved on to working in the investment department of Seattle First National Bank, handling bonds, high income customers, and services to other banks. In the years to follow, he became the director of three more banks.

“I met my business partner during that period, and we started doing things together. It got to the point where I had to make a choice: full-time real estate or banking. So, in 1976, I made the decision to pursue real estate development full time.”

Hank admits that one advantage of moving from banking to real estate was having inside knowledge of how things work.

“There are a lot of similar things between the stock, bond, and real estate markets, but I like the real estate market because you can compete with your knowledge in a local area,” he observed. “When you're dealing in the stock market, you're competing against the world. I think you can control your destiny a little better in the real estate market.”

Accordingly, Hank has found many rewards in his current career.

“From the standpoint of home sites and building, you're fulfilling a need. To provide cost-effective housing for people is important,” Hank mused. “It's kind of rewarding when you're dealing with larger parcels where you can say, 'Well, the road is going to go here, and the home sites are going here.' You're creating a little bit, which is kind of nice.” He added, “But it's so different today; we've evolved into pretty costly housing because of all of the regulations — some good, some bad.”

Over the years, Hank has worked tirelessly to bring jobs and economic development to Snohomish County. His resume is a page-long summary of accomplishments, including the directorship of the United Way of Snohomish County, Everett Chamber of Commerce, Snohomish County Economic Development Council, Washington Association of Realtors, USO Puget Sound Area, Snohomish Lions Club, General Hospital Foundation, Snohomish County Affordable Housing Group, and participation and awards in many more community organizations. In addition, he is a long-time supporter of the EvCC Foundation, believing strongly in giving back to the community and the school that gave him his start.

While others his age are comfortably resting in retirement, Hank continues to work to bring development and jobs to Snohomish County. The same resolve that drove him to pursue a career in aviation continues to animate him today.

“I believe in economic development — quality economic development,” he asserted. “It's so important. I spent a lot of time helping to bring Hewlett-Packard to this area, and I was also very involved in the Navy base here. If I remember the stats correctly, Hewlett-Packard's employees initially bought about 160 houses in the Snohomish County area. It turned our market around back then,” he elaborated.

Hank is especially committed to bringing commercial air to Paine Field, a development, he insists, that citizens and businesses deserve.

“I served on the board of the Economic Development Council for many years, and in the latter period, when we tried to bring new businesses to town, we'd lose them at the county line,” he pointed out. “By the time we picked them up at the Seattle airport and got through the traffic mess in Seattle, they wouldn't do it.”

Hank remembers the days of flying over Washington, D.C.'s Dulles airport when it was “tobacco and cornfields” and feels strongly that the Everett area can only benefit by having commercial air nearby.

“If you notice, throughout the country, everything is starting to center around airports — that's your transportation hub,” he emphasized. “You've got to move product and you've got to move people; you've got to have it [commercial air]. Before, we didn't need it that much here. That's no longer the case.”

When asked what words of advice he would offer to today's EvCC students, Hank answered thoughtfully:

“Well, I think the biggest thing is to stick with it. We have too many people who don't. And, set realistic goals; don't set goals that are impossible. And then, work a plan to get there. It will work.”

Does Hank Robinett still set goals?

“Yep,” he smiled.

From Marine Corps aviator to real estate developer and concerned citizen, Hank attributes his achievements to a work ethic modeled by his parents.

In his unassuming manner, Hank reflected:

“I always liked to achieve . . . I believe it's very important to help others and make something of your life.”