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Leader of social services agency entering political arena

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

An active Federal Way resident and member of the local business and non-profit communities has announced she'll run for the Federal Way City Council Position 6 seat currently held by Councilman Eric Faison.

Dini Duclos, chief executive officer of the non-profit Multi-Service Center, a board member for the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce and a member of the city's Planning Commission, said she could be a more effective advocate for the business community on the council than from the outside.

Faison has confirmed he'll seek re-election this fall. The Position 6 incumbent has served on the council council since 2001.

Duclos assumed the helm of Multi-Service Center, a Federal Way-based human services agency whose programs include the Federal Way Food Bank, on Jan. 1, 1995, and moved into the city three months later. "I wanted to be invested in the community where I worked. I wanted to live and work in the same community," she said.

Her bid for the council stems from an interest in seeing the city's downtown core prosper sooner rather than later. It's a concern she and Faison share, but one she said she intends to work on with more vigor.

"We're both on the same page. We both want to see downtown thrive. It's how you get there," she said. "Eric has never been one to want to involve the community. Eric has had six years to do it, and I haven't seen much."

Faison said Duclos' choice to run against him is perplexing "given our shared interest in redevelopment of downtown."

"I've done more than any other council member in stressing economic development," he said. "The whole discussion regarding economic development was initiated by me. The whole discussion regarding the focus of lifestyle retail and development of our downtown was brought up by me."

Duclos said it's been discouraging to hear of great business successes in other communities while businesses in Federal Way struggle and ultimately leave. Business is the backbone of the community, she said, and business revenue helps to relieve the tax burden on residents and provides revenue to non-profit organizations, who in turn assist the needy in the community.

She said she's interested in increasing residents' participation and involvement in their neighborhoods and in furthering arts in the city, but added those things hinge on the health of the business community.

"If we could attract more business, we could provide more revenue for infrastructure and human needs," she said. "We need a strong business community to help support the rest of the community."

Faison, countering her allegation he hasn't involved the community, said he's attended "numerous community and chamber meetings to encourage involvement in general and the chamber specifically. Unfortunately, participation has been light. I personally have contacted numerous developers and property owners. The hiring of the lifestyle consultant was my idea. The creation of a new position focused on business retention in the economic development office was my idea."

He added he also insisted on the creation of a magazine-style show that will appear on the city's local-cable television station, with funding lined up for three more to showcase Federal Way.

Duclos has received the Citizen of the Year award, the Woman of Distinction Award and Weyerhaeuser's Martin Luther King Jr. Living the Dream Award. She's also served as president of the homeowners association in her Grouse Point neighborhood.

Balancing conflicting or competing interests comes down to listening, being responsive to citizens and being willing to work with people, she said.

During his time as a Planning Commission member prior to his appointment to the council, Faison said, he spearheaded the effort to find a new access from Interstate 5 into Federal Way, for which a study is currently underway. "It was funded by the council at my pressing," he said. "We need to work harder to make these (projects) happen, to get them funded in a short period. Transportation and economic development are our two highest priorities."

During his time in office, Faison also worked on annexation issues. "Despite Council reluctance, we've had three annexations that were approved overwhelmingly," he said. "We need to look at other areas where we might be affected by rampant growth in the county."

Duclos said she'd like to see people get more involved in their neighborhoods and their community and to feel a sense of pride in the city and the services and programs it provides.

"Federal Way has an awful lot going for it. It's beautiful," she said. "I love the city very much. I want to help the city move forward."

Duclos will formally launch her campaign March 1.

Faison said he anticipates a civil race between them.

"I know Dini is a good candidate. We agree on a lot of issues. Our differences are in large part driven by our professional experience," he said. "I expect we'll have a cordial campaign that will allow us to discuss where we agree and disagree."

Faison was a corporate lawyer prior to taking his position with the city of University Place as a special projects manager in the city manager's office.

Federal Way's council positions are part-time. Faison was appointed in January 2001 to a one-year term following Phil Watkins' resignation. Faison was elected to retain his seat in the fall of 2001.

He currently is chairman of the city's Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee, which recently interviewed and recommended the hiring of a consulting firm to conduct a lifestyle retail market study as part of efforts to boost economic development downtown.

Faison also has served as chairman of the Land Use and Transportation Committee, as a member of the city's potential annexation area steering committee and, prior to his appointment to the Council, as a member of the city's planning commission.

Two other council incumbents, Linda Kochmar and Jeanne Burbidge, also are up for re-election this year, but no announced challengers have come forward yet.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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