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Priest leads race for Federal Way's first elected mayor | Winner takes office after election certification

State Rep. Skip Priest
State Rep. Skip Priest's supporters applaud the first results for the Federal Way mayor race Nov. 2 at The Best Western-Evergreen Inn and Suites. Early results show Priest leading Jim Ferrell, 52 percent to 47 percent.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Skip Priest is leading Jim Ferrell in the race to become Federal Way's first elected mayor.

According to early election results, Priest has received about 52 percent of the vote so far, with Ferrell receiving about 47 percent. Ballots are still being counted, and results will be certified Nov. 23.

The new mayor will take office for a three-year term immediately following the election's certification, said city manager Brian Wilson.

Minutes before results were announced Tuesday, Priest speculated that running a positive campaign and door-belling 8,000 homes would be key to winning the race. Priest expressed appreciation for those who joined him at an election party at the Best Western-Evergreen Inn and Suites, noting that he's in good company with fellow community volunteers.

"I'm the luckiest guy in the whole world, win or lose," he said.

Federal Way resident Joann Piquette joined other supporters in applauding Priest upon the initial election results.

"He's worked so hard. I'll just cross my fingers," she said of the results, adding that Priest is among the few candidates who has avoided negative campaigning. "He was positive all the way through. Not many other candidates have positive campaigns."

Priest is one of the city's most recognized leaders with roots stretching back to Federal Way's incorporation. Priest, a state representative for District 30, opted to run for mayor rather than seek re-election to the Legislature. Priest served on the Federal Way City Council from 1991 to 1997, including two years as an appointed mayor under the city's council-manager form of government. He was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2002.

Ferrell did not concede the race Tuesday, but acknowledged that Priest will likely be Federal Way's first elected mayor.

"I'll do everything I can to help him be successful," Ferrell said during an election night gathering at Marista's coffee shop. "This was about the future of Federal Way."

Federal Way resident Nancy Combs, a leading supporter of Ferrell's campaign, remained hopeful that the results could change as more ballots are counted.

"He deserves it," she said of Ferrell.

Ferrell was first elected to the Federal Way City Council in 2003, then re-elected in 2007. Last fall, Ferrell led a controversial effort with voters that created the elected mayor position. He works as a King County prosecuting attorney.

Background

In November 2009, voters approved an initiative to change Federal Way's government, replacing the city manager and appointed mayor with a strong elected mayor.

Candidate Jim Ferrell and political consultant Steve McNey spearheaded the effort to pass Proposition 1 in one of Federal Way's most controversial elections. After the measure passed with about 51 percent of the vote, Ferrell declared his intention to run for mayor.

About 55 percent of voters rejected the same initiative in 2008. Afterward, Federal Way resident and Accountability Comes to Town (ACT) president Roy Parke led another signature drive to get the initiative on the November 2009 ballot.

Salary and benefits

The new mayor will receive $112,800 per year. The Independent Salary Commission established the mayor's salary and benefits in January 2010. The salaries range from $6,236 per month in Wenatchee to $13,885 per month in Seattle. The average (or mean) mayoral salary was $9,566 per month ($114,792 annually). The median salary was $9,134 monthly ($109,608 annually).

The mayor will get the same perks as Federal Way's regular full-time non-represented employees, such as planning, finance, law and IT staff. Benefits include a membership to the Federal Way retirement system, medical coverage, dental and vision insurance eligibility, accruing sick and vacation leave, paid holidays and jury duty leave, and discounts on a pass to the Federal Way Community Center, among other things. The mayor will not be provided a transportation allowance, but will be able to expense items such as gas mileage.

This report contains information gathered from previous Mirror reports.

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