'Enjoy where you live'


Staff writer

Dean McColgan, Federal Way’s new mayor, believes in the power of people who live, work and play in a city to make it a community.

It’s people who volunteer to work with youth or the disadvantaged who make a difference, he said, and it’s people who open shops or businesses who contribute to the economic vitality of a city.

He hears from those people, who stop him in the grocery store or at ball games to tell him their concerns or their hopes for Federal Way.

“One of the most important components of a community is the people,” he said. “The people who live here want to make Federal Way a good place to live and raise a family.”

McColgan was elected mayor by his fellow City Council members Jan. 6. In addition to serving as a council member, Federal Way’s mayor has the authority to appoint council members to committees and regional posts, serves as the city’s chief spokesman and represents the city at ceremonial events.

Federal Way is more than just a bedroom community, but to make it a city people can use, it must offer the services and quality-of-life opportunities they need, McColgan said.

“We need to provide amenities to make you want to live in Federal Way, not just because you found the cheapest house here,” he said. “You have to enjoy the place where you live.”

McColgan said volunteering is crucial for communities, particularly with budget strains from the federal government down to local governments, corporations and organizations. He encourages citizens to get involved in a classroom, at the Multi-Service Center, or in a senior living community.

McColgan works at United Way of Pierce County and serves on the Boys and Girls Club board in Federal Way. He’s spent years volunteering as a coach, referee and umpire for local youth sporting events.

“I’ve been volunteering as a coach for 17 years and I love it,” he said, adding he’s sorry to have to cut back this year because of extra city duties. “I’ve met wonderful, committed people in our community through coaching. Believe me, every one of us can make a difference in someone’s life.”

Still, the best way to make a lasting difference is to “spend time with your kids, as much as you can, because the time goes by so fast,” he said.

Now that his two sons are pretty much grown, they’ve picked up his spirit of volunteerism. Both are camp counsellors and Boys and Girls Club volunteers and David, 20, is majoring in teaching and minoring in coaching at Central Washington University, he said.

As a coach and sports dad, he’s seen how team sports provide life lessons to young people, like leadership, teamwork and how to be good winners and losers.

“There’s nothing wrong with losing,” he said. “We lose at things all our lives. It’s how you lose” that matters.

Sports can also demonstrate the best in leadership.

“A leader is someone who knows when to be a leader and when to be a follower,” he said. “A leader is someone who understands the team concept. You get more done as a team than doing everything individually.”

McColgan has demonstrated that philosophy in his time as a city councilman.

During the past year alone, the council has worked on building a community center, senior center and pool and providing a municipal facility for cops, courts and city government.

The Council has worked on implementing business-friendly changes to the permitting process, providing incentives to coax development into downtown Federal Way and changing commercial vehicle regulations.

He’s put off making a decision on an issue to give him more time to work with his colleagues and members of the community and he has on occasion changed his mind, especially after hearing new information.

“I’m very much an analyzer,” he said. “I like breaking things down into black and white data. But, in this arena, I frequently don’t have all the information at the time I have to make a decision. But I don’t know I don’t have all the information until someone calls.”

It can be hard to fully explore all the subtle details of an issue because the council serves part-time, he said.

“We have a limited amount of time to review all the information,” he said. “I listen to what people say — both sides. That’s why I change my mind sometimes. But, sometimes, you’ve got to get to a point and make a decision.”

On the other hand, people need to be involved in local government so they aren’t surprised when issues come up that might affect them. City officials currently are brainstorming ideas for boosting public involvement, like creating an outreach program that would take some city council and committee meetings into neighborhoods, and using Federal Way’s cable TV station.

McColgan said he likes to spend his free time with his family. His son Christopher, 16, a junior at Federal Way High School, plays soccer, tennis, swims and plays baseball, so there’s always a game to go to. When David’s home from college, they spend a lot of time together.

Sometimes, on a rare, quiet night, he tries to “sneak away with my wife Linda and have a quiet dinner and catch up on our busy days,” he said. “When we have time together we talk about our children and laugh a lot.

“Federal Way is a wonderful city,” he said. “I’ve raised my children here and I’ve lived here for 23 years. It’s a city I’m proud to call home.”

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