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Federal Way's Moseley explains why he'd take Tacoma's city manager job

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

While Tacoma is considered a dynamic, growing city with a vibrant arts community, a diverse population and beautiful views, it was the city’s strategic plan that caught Federal Way city manager David Moseley’s attention and convinced him to throw in his hat for the city manager job there.

On Tuesday, Tacoma officials announced Moseley is a finalist for the position along with two other candidates: Eric Anderson, city manager of Des Moines, Iowa, and Gary Jackson, former city manager of Fort Worth, Texas.

Moseley said he was contacted over the holidays by an executive search firm working for Tacoma. They spoke again in February prior to the application deadline, which was set for the end of February. Moseley thought it over.

“I talked to some people in Tacoma that I know about the future and prospects,” he said.

But what really sold him was reviewing the city’s strategic plan, which outlines the city’s vision and goals to achieve it.

“Really, the strategic plan was the deciding factor,” he said. “The things they were working on were a fit with the things I’ve been doing for 14 years. It aligned itself with what I’ve been able to do in city management and in Seattle city government.”

In general, a city manager is responsible for overseeing employees in all city departments. The city manager is appointed by the city council and serves at the discretion of the council.

A city manager’s main responsibilities are what Moseley calls “the two I’s: Information and implementation.” Using the expertise of city officials, the manager provides “well-researched, unbiased information” to the council, which uses that information to set city policy. “Then, we implement whatever decision the council makes,” Moseley said.

Many of the projects and plans in Tacoma are similar to those in Federal Way, but on a larger scale. Tacoma is aggressively pursuing economic development in its downtown and revitalization in its neighborhoods. The city has identified affordable housing as a key item of focus and remains committed to the perennial municipal priority of public safety.

“Like all local governments, they have budgetary challenges,” Moseley said. “Their economic development goals speak to their need to ‘grow the pie,’ as (Federal Way City Councilman) Jack Dovey likes to say.”

At almost 58 years old — his birthday is in a couple weeks, about the same time the Tacoma council will be making its decision on a new city manager — it wouldn’t be unheard of for Moseley to stay with this job as his last until retirement. But the thought of starting over with something new at this point in his life hasn’t daunted him.

“When I retire, I’m going to walk away. And I’m not ready to do that yet,” he said. “I love what I do.

“It’s really important that government be a partner in positive progress for a community. I like trying to make government better. It’s what I get up in the morning for. It was part of the motivation for applying to Tacoma — to restore pride and confidence in the city.”

If he’s ultimately selected, Moseley said he’s not concerned about having to oversee the Tacoma Police Department, whose former chief, David Brame, last year shot his wife, who had filed for divorce to leave the abusive relationship, and then himself in a Gig Harbor parking lot. An ensuing investigation revealed some corruption in the department; the Tacoma City Council later fired city manager Ray Corpuz for promoting Brame despite indications he was unfit.

The council appointed deputy city manager Jim Walton replace Corpuz. Walton is not applying to keep the position now.

In brushing up his resume, Moseley said, he was able to reflect on the accomplishments Federal Way has seen under his leadership since he was hired here in 1999. They include the renewal of the Police Department, specifically “the work we’ve done to build a different kind of culture.” He attributed positive steps to chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

“We’ve worked very hard to have more of an officer-friendly approach to policing,” he said.

The new City Hall is a big capital project of which he’s proud — and one that ended up costing the city less than anticipated.

“When people see this building, they’re amazed we’re in it for $15 million,” he said.

He also noted another big capital project, the community center being plananed for a site near Celebration Park.

“The community center is going to be a great addition to the community,” he said, adding that “it’ll be a state-of-the-art center and a terrific contribution to the community.”

On the business side, Moseley said the city has worked hard with its permits process and customer service to ease up some of the difficulties of getting local development projects going.

Some of the accomplishments have been less noticeable in the physical sense, he said, but have been crucial to the operation of city government all the same.

“I’m very pleased with the way staff works together, the council works together, and staff and the council work together,” he said. “That doesn’t just happen. We’re a small staff. It takes a lot of working together.”

Moseley said will be extra busy the next couple of weeks balancing his duties here with the interview process in Tacoma.

The Tacoma council has scheduled a city tour for the manager candidates next Wednesday. A public meeting followed by a reception will be held Thursday for city residents to meet the candidates, and the council will interview each finalist in executive session Friday. The Council will then deliberate for a few days before making a decision.

Tacoma spokesman Scott Huntley said the council hopes for a decision by the end of May, “probably earlier rather than later.”

The pay range for the Tacoma city manager is $132,000 to $190,000. The current manager’s base salary is $162,400, Huntley said.

Moseley’s 2005 base salary in Federal Way is $117,605.

Moseley said he doesn’t expect the work itself would be significantly different if takes the reins in Tacoma.

“Whether you’re in Steilacoom, with 6,000 (residents), or Tacoma, with 200,000, the work’s pretty much the same: Providing good information, implementing policies and communicating with the public,” he said. “In that sense, it’s the same. It’s not much of a change.

“At the same time, it’s a big change.”

Much has happened in Federal Way since he was hired a little more than five years ago, and it’s not a simple task to walk away, he said. Still, his upbringing — his father was a minister and his family moved frequently from congregation to congregation — has led him to accept new things openly, he related.

“When you’ve got a solid core — my family is my solid core — you look forward to change,” he said.

He paused, then added, “I’d probably feel less sanguine about it except for the fact there’s such good staff here. The community center is in good hands. Han Woo-Ri (the Korean sports and cultural festival coming up in May) is in good hands. The budget is in good hands. I’m confident.”

Moseley arrived in Federal Way after working as city manager of Ellensburg. He has encountered controversy here, most recently when officials discovered last October that the community center project was $6 million over budget because some costs, including sales tax, had been overlooked. The $15 million project has since gotten back on budget, however.

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

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