News

Boss isn't looking back as he leaves

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

City manager David Moseley bid Federal Way farewell at his last City Council meeting Dec. 20, and while he doesn't intend to look back, he said he will miss seeing the completion of a couple projects, notably the community center and redevelopment in the city center.

Moseley is leaving Federal Way after six years to take a position as the national field director for a non-profit organization in Seattle called the Institute for Community Change, which recently took over management and oversight of the Urban Health Initiative.

The UHI was formed nine years ago –– funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation –– to determine if collaborative efforts could make measurable improvements to youth health and safety. After an initial call for proposals, five cities –– Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia and Richmond, Va. –– were tapped for ongoing effort, and the national program office was established at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.

While all five cities' youth health and safety efforts fall under the aegis of the UHI and the Institute for Community Change, the projects themselves are unique to the cities. Some of the efforts to reduce youth violence, substance abuse or teen pregnancy include after-school programs, school-readiness and strategies for juvenile justice.

For Moseley, that's not uncharted territory.

During divinity school, which he pursued in the late 1960s after getting his undergraduate degree in political science, Moseley found a job as the assistant recreation director working with youth programs at a community center in north Oakland. He moved in next door to the center and was the director by the time he was 24. He stayed after graduation.

Moseley said his family's culture and value system fostered his interest in politics and influenced his choice of political science as a major.

"My dad was always very interested in current affairs," he said. "Our dinnertime conversation had to do with current affairs, the community. And, of course, the time I was growing up" was influential.

He said he didn't plan to become a minister after divinity school. The Baptist tradition he was raised in has a strong social ministry, he said, and he saw himself working as a pastoral counselor with a social service agency of some kind. The community center in Oakland brought an abundance of real-world education that complemented his formal education.

He recalled taking some of the kids on field trips around the Bay Area. Of nine or 10 young teenagers, he said, three had never seen the Golden Gate Bridge. "And they lived in Oakland," he said. "That's the life-limiting effect of poverty. My dad was a minister and we never had a lot of money, but nothing like that."

In the early 1970s, Moseley decided it was time to do something new. He put everything in a U-Haul truck and drove north, not really knowing where he'd end up. He found himself in Seattle in the fall of 1974.

At the time, Seattle was just starting an innovative juvenile justice program called the Community Accountability Program (CAP). Instead of being incarcerated, first-time juvenile offenders would be directed to community service to make them aware of the community they had harmed. Moseley got a job as the deputy director. A couple years later, he became the director. Before long, he was the director of Seattle's Youth Services Division.

In 1981, Moseley decided to run for Seattle City Council. He lost, and later accepted a position as director of community relations for Seattle Central Community College. He said his work at the college further illustrated the relationship between the devastating effects of crime and poverty, like he'd seen in Oakland and through Seattle's CAP, and the life-affirming impact of education.

"Once you're caught in the cycle of poverty, it's really hard to get out of it. People get trapped," he said. "But (escaping) certainly can happen, and education is the key."

Now is an interesting time to be embarking on a brand new endeavor. Moseley, who turned 58 this year, said he hasn't set a personal timeline with the Institute for Community Change, nor does he intend to retire soon.

"I like working," he said. "As long as I'm healthy and feel like I'm happy working, I could see myself working another 10 to 12 years."

Moseley and his wife, Anne Fennessy, intend to stay in Federal Way, at least for now. Fennessy's office in Seattle is only a block from Moseley's new office, so "we'll be a carpooling family," he said.

An early riser, avid non-fiction reader and a fan of the "West Wing" White House TV drama, Moseley said he's looking forward to spending more time at home when he's not traveling to as part of his new job.

Moseley said he'll use his experience from 32 years in city government to help the organizations in cities understand the nuances of government, as well as the interplay among different personalities. He'll help them formulate strategies to make their cases for funding requests, or for policy changes from elected bodies.

In addition, he's hoping to use his expertise to expand the institute's mission to include housing and community development. "That's part of my interest in coming on board," he said.

It's a fairly substantial change for Moseley. He's been spending a lot of time in meetings. But he's enthusiastic about getting started.

"The new responsibility will be so different, and there's so much to learn," he said. "I'm sitting at meetings and I'm the dumbest person in the room."

The past three decades in city government could be seen as a diversion from what appears to be his life's mission –– working with low-income and at-risk youth. On the other hand, they could be seen as preparation.

"It feels like I'm going back. I'm reading material and I'm telling you, it all sounds very familiar," he said. "It feels at 58 like a fresh start, something that'll be challenging. It's a breath of fresh air."

Moseley almost got a different start in May when he was one of two finalists to be city manager of Tacoma. When he didn't get the job, he said he was happy to be staying in Federal Way –– where Mayor Dean McColgan was happy to have him.

"It would have been tough to fill his shoes," Mayor Dean McColgan said in May. "He's been a terrific city manager. He's seen us through our growing pains."

McColgan, other council members and city officials joined citizens at a reception for Moseley before the Dec. 20 council meeting.

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

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