New mayor for a new year

The city’s new mayor says capital projects like a new municipal facility are high on her list of priorities.

Jeanne Burbidge was chosen by the City Council this week to steer the Federal Way helm as mayor in a 5-1 vote.

Councilman Dean McColgan was elected to the deputy mayor post.

Councilwoman Mary Gates, who served as mayor in 1994 and ‘95, said she’s seen Burbidge in action and believes she’s the best choice.

“I think that she really provides balance and listens to all sides of issues,”Gates said.

As vice chairwoman of the South King County Transportation Policy Board, Burbidge has presided over meetings and handled controversial issues extremely well, Gates said.

However, councilman Michael Hellickson, who cast the dissenting vote, said he was concerned with the council’s choice. He advocated Linda Kochmar instead.

“It’s not that I think she’s a bad person. I just don’t think she’s the right person for the job,” he said of Burbidge, citing worries that she would not do enough to foster public involvement in city decisions, such as the recent study on a new City Hall the council majority authorized without asking residents which criteria are most important.

He also cited concern about Burbidge’s willingness to work with all council members.

“Yesterday before council meeting made clear to me that she values (councilwoman) Mary Gates’ and (City Manager) David Moseley’s opinion over that of other council members,” he said, adding he believes it’s inappropriate to have different level of discuss with them and other members of the council.

He added his vote and comments are likely to cost him the opportunity to chair a council committee. “I understand that it’s going to cost me the opportunity to chair a committee, but I want to go home and look my daughter in they eye knowing that I voted my conscience.”

But Gates said Hellickson might not have seen Burbidge in action as a group leader.

“It’s not just a matter of thinking she’ll do a good job, but actually seeing her in action handling difficult issues. He may not have ever seen her in that context,” Gates said.

Burbidge declined to discuss Hellickson’s comments specifically, but did say, “I look forward to working together with the whole council.”

And there is much work to be done, said the new mayor, who will serve a two-year term.

Burbidge and McColgan replace Michael Park and Linda Kochmar, who remain on the City Council.

She said the council needs to work hard on a capital investment plan that covers the next 10 years.

“We need to prioritize what the community needs, and anticipate what the financial resources will be,” she said.

Specifically, a municipal facility should be included in such a plan, she said. Burbidge advocates combining a City Hall with court and police facilities.

“I personally see an advantage in combining those three very important functions together,” she said, citing economic and efficiency advantages as well as a set-up that fosters better communication among city departments and streamlines operations.

“I see that municipal facility as being high on the priority list ... what we have now is not adequate. We have outgrown our current City Hall building ... It’s time to take a serious look at what the alternatives are and make some serious plans,” she said.

The council also needs to take a look at other things community members have shown interest in, she said, including a community center, additional parks, a large performance hall and an athletic field house.

Unfortunately, the city won’t be able to do everything everyone wants, she said, citing the fact that Federal Way’s revenue per capita is 25th among 37 cities in King County.

“In spite of that, I see us providing very high quality service. But it is a continual challenge,” she said.

Burbidge said the city is in a good position to move forward.

“I first of all would say that it’s my conviction that our city has built a really solid base ... that we can rely on,” she said. Federal Way is fiscally sound thanks to good decisions by the council and city administrators during the past 11 years, she said.

She added the city is able to draw on many people in the community as it moves forward.

“We have just an outstanding community of people who really care about what happens in Federal Way, so many of whom put in extra time and energy to make Federal Way better,” she said. “I feel that we have lots of assets in that regard.”

Burbidge said she looks forward to stepping into a larger role in representing Federal Way by meeting with other local officials to discuss regional issues, as outgoing Mayor Park did. She has some experience in that aspect, having served on the Suburban Cities Board of Directors, as last year’s chairwoman for the Regional Law Safety and Justice Committee in King County, and as vice chairwoman for the South County Area Transportation Board.

Burbidge has served on the City Council since January 1998. She previously chaired the City Council’s Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety Committee and was a member of the Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs and the Land Use and Transportation committees. Burbidge has a bachelor of arts degree from Seattle University and a master’s degree from the University of Washington. A Federal Way resident for 32 years, she and her husband, Jim, have three grown children.

McColgan has served on the City Council since January 2000. He previously chaired the City Council’s Land Use and Transportation Committee and served on the Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety committees. McColgan works for United Way of Pierce County and has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gonzaga University. A Federal Way resident for 22 years, he and his wife, Linda, have two sons.

Burbidge said she looks forward to serving the community in her new role.

“I guess I feel like we have our roots here, my husband and I do. We have lived here and raised our family here and established friendships,” she said. “My heart’s here.”

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