Renton’s Ted Rodriguez earns Key to the City

Renton City Council celebrates Ted Rodriguez as “pillar” of the community, designates Feb. 6 as “Ted Rodriguez Day.”

During the recent Renton City Council meeting, Mayor Armondo Pavone presented Renton resident and community leader Ted Rodriguez with the Key to the City and designated Feb. 6 as Ted Rodriguez Day.

Rodriguez has been a constant fixture in the community since opening Torero’s Mexican Restaurant in Renton in 1979. Stepping down from ownership of the restaurant this year, city leaders extended gratitude for what he has given back over the past four decades.

“Ted has been a pillar of our community in Renton, and over the years, I’ve come to know him as a businessman in the Renton restaurant industry, as well as in his role on the Mayor’s Inclusion Task Force,” Pavone said. “He is warm, welcoming and quick to offer perspective and support. His story here in Renton serves as a reminder that creating community is a task we must all contribute to — it is an action that requires daily care… and feeding.”

Rodriguez has volunteered regularly at senior centers, provided free church meals to low-income families and donates abundantly to service clubs in the city. He has served as a long-standing member of the Mayor’s Inclusion Task Force for the past eight years, and as a deacon at Renton’s St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. He regularly travels to many other Puget Sound congregations on Sundays to facilitate mass in Spanish.

He served as a founding member of the Renton Sister Cities Association and was instrumental in facilitating the Sister City relationship between Renton and his hometown of Cuautla, Mexico, and later, Nishiwaki, Japan. He also helped form Washington’s sister-state relationship with Jalisco, Mexico, alongside former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro, while working behind the scenes on many projects to improve trade relations between the U.S. and Mexico.

Rodriguez and Torero’s Restaurants sponsored Renton River Days over several decades, helping to keep activities for children and families free of charge. In 2018, Rodriguez was named the Renton River Days Parade Grand Marshal.

He also helped create a school program to teach Renton Public School students about Mexican culture. Starting in 1993, Rodriguez started Mexican Heritage Day in Renton, when approximately 800 second graders would make a trek each spring to Torero’s Mexican Restaurant on Rainier Avenue South to learn about Mexican culture and eat traditional after-school snacks while a live band played traditional Mexican folk music.

In 1997, Rodriguez received the “Citizen of the Year Award” from the City of Renton, acknowledging his monumental community service efforts. In the years since, Rodriguez has served as an initial member of the Mayor’s Inclusion Task Force, focused on providing a direct voice to City leadership from Renton’s diverse communities.

Rodriguez is the second eldest in a family of 11 children raised by two working parents in Cuautla — a village of 2,000 residents 40 miles south of Mexico City — where at the time, poverty was prevalent. His father Andres emigrated to California in the 1950s, working on farms and in restaurants. Ted followed in 1967 and dreamed of opening his own business. In 1979, an opportunity became available to open a restaurant in Renton, where he readily became involved in the community.

The City of Renton Key to the City is a rare honor given to those who make a deep and lasting impact on the community. Rodriguez is one of just five recipients in the past ten years.

Past recipients include Bjorn Bayley and Anders Berglund, IKEA owners; the Eriam Sisters, America’s Got Talent contestants; Kirby Unti, community member; Judge Gerard M. Shellan, who served 27 years as Renton Municipal Court judge; Larry Warren, who served 40+ years as City Attorney, and Jay Covington, who served for over 29 years as chief administrative officer.