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Elected mayor marks new era for Federal Way

Skip Priest chats with city finance director Tho Kraus during a meet-and-greet Tuesday at City Hall. Priest took the oath of office and was officially sworn-in as mayor on Wednesday.  - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Skip Priest chats with city finance director Tho Kraus during a meet-and-greet Tuesday at City Hall. Priest took the oath of office and was officially sworn-in as mayor on Wednesday.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

The feel of a new era in city politics lingered in the air Tuesday as Mayor-elect Skip Priest greeted residents at City Hall and prepared for an upcoming oath of office.

Priest, the city's first publicly elected mayor, was scheduled to take his oath, and subsequently take office, Tuesday before a crowd of supporters. However, the region-wide snowstorm prohibited King County Elections from certifying the Nov. 2 election results. The city switched the event from an inauguration to a meet-and-greet. Priest was officially sworn in Wednesday following official election certification.

"I'm very excited about this opportunity to be the first (elected) mayor," Priest said Tuesday. "It's obviously kind of a historic occasion."

Under oath

The oath will mark Federal Way's transition from a city council/city manager form of government to a city council/elected mayor system. Priest will replace city manager/police chief Brian Wilson, who will resume his duties as full-time police chief. Former appointed mayor Linda Kochmar will remain a city council member until her term ends in Dec. 2013. Deputy Mayor Dini Duclos will hold her position until the conclusion of 2011, at which time a new deputy mayor will be named to a two-year term.

Before legally being named Federal Way's newest mayor, Priest will "solemnly swear that (he) will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of this office as prescribed by the law and to the best of (his) ability, and that (he) will support and maintain the Constitution of the State of Washington and of the United States of America," according to the Oath to Office.

Leading Federal Way

As the new top leader, Priest will have a lot on his plate from the start. The council is expected to pass the 2011-2012 budget in December. The council and mayor are also expected to sign a purchase and sale agreement for the former Toys 'R' Us property as a future location for a performing arts, cultural and conference center by year's end. The future of the World Championship of Sand Sculpting is another controversial topic expected to come before the council and mayor.

Priest has been candid on how he plans to approach these subjects. He said Tuesday he will take a few months to catch up on the city's happenings before he decides how the city ought to move forward. Priest said he will remain focused, as promised during his election campaign, on long-term fiscal responsibility, economic development and public safety in Federal Way.

Long time coming

Several council members attended the Nov. 23 meet-and-greet. For them, Priest's swearing-in will be a culmination of more than a year of preparation by the council. Since mid-2009, when a voter-approved citizens initiative created an elected mayor, the council has considered what duties an elected mayor ought to perform and what duties should remain with the council.

"We're ready to move forward," Duclos said.

The council expects Priest to make some changes, and that's his prerogative, Duclos said. The city council wishes to see Priest do well and plans to work together collaboratively with Priest to serve Federal Way residents to the best of their abilities, she said.

"We want him to be successful," Duclos said.

New roles

The change in government will be a significant change in daily procedure for Kochmar, who served the past 11 months as the city's mayor, and Wilson, who served since May 2009 as city manager. Both public officials were honored Nov. 16 at the regularly scheduled council meeting for their service to the city. Kochmar was given a plaque and miniature gavel by Wilson and city staff. She thanked the public and her family for their support. Federal Way residents Linda Purlee and Martin Moore both publicly thanked Kochmar for her service.

At the same meeting, the city council wished Wilson well and voiced appreciation to him for stepping into the interim city manager position with short notice. Wilson said he will never forget the call from Jack Dovey, who was mayor at the time, asking him to act as the city's manager.

Wilson said Tuesday he never thought he'd serve as a city manager and never thought his time in the position would last more than six months. He is honored to have been given the opportunity.

"It was a good run. I enjoyed it," Wilson said.

Wilson said he is proud of running the city for 18 months and he is proud of the police, general city staff and council for continuing on without disruption.

"I'm going to look back on this favorably," he said.

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