Answering my own question (probably the best way)...
I solved this problem by figuring out how to execute the command inside the rc script as a non-root user. Like so:
  echo "${command} ${command_args}"
  su admin -c "${command} ${command_args}"
  echo "started autossh"
This works beautifully, so I almost hesitate to ask, but is there anything wrong with this approach?

Nothing, except you're re-inventing the wheel.  rc.subr already
has a mechanism for running commands as another user.  Instead
of defining a new start() function, simply add something like:

: ${autossh_user:='admin'}

towards the top of the script.  (This also means you can override
the setting by defining 'autossh_user="someoneelse"' in /etc/rc.conf
in the usual way)

Ah, fascinating. Now that I know what I'm looking for, I can see that in the rc.subr man page.


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