The Federal Way City Council unanimously approved the funding for an economic development director position during its meeting Tuesday and agreed that economic development continues to be of paramount importance to the city.
According to Mayor Jim Ferrell’s Chief of Staff Brian Wilson, the designation of director means a qualified candidate would make between $112-148,000 annually, depending on experience and other relevant factors.
“The importance of economic development within our city cannot be overstated and with the tremendous workload demands that have been experienced by our staff, specifically our Community and Economic Development Director (Patrick Doherty), and with the change in the economy that we’re starting to see, it’s our recommendation from the mayor to add/re-establish an economic development position,” Wilson said. “This would have a singular focus under the mayor to plan, organize and direct economic development for the downtown area. The position would provide leadership and coordination for the city’s economic development activities, including recommending policy, infrastructure, marketing, recruitment and negotiations with businesses, bringing them into our city as part of new development.”
Wilson added the position would “seek out overall economic development strategies for the city,” and also would “coordinate and collaborate with partner groups within our community” to “build on the great opportunity” the city has in the downtown core.
Councilmember Kelly Maloney asked for clarification, wondering if the new position would be solely focused on development in the downtown core, or whether it would be for the whole city. Wilson said the position would be responsible for economic development throughout the entire city.
Councilmember Dini Duclos said she had advocated for the position to be elevated to a directorship because of the pool of candidates that would open up to the city.
“I think it’s a very important decision, and the position itself is going to report to the mayor’s office, and no other manager reports directly to the mayor’s office,” she said. “When I saw the term ‘manager’ … I knew what we would get. We would get somebody that was not a manager, but (was) trying to work into a management position and this would be an upward step for the individual. If we go to ‘director,’ we’ll get somebody that’s been at a higher level but wants to become a director and has the skills to be a director but can’t in their present position. It broadens the field for us.”
Duclos also emphasized the importance of a singular focus on economic development for the city, saying the city, with this position, “needs to have somebody … who knows what they’re doing.”
“This is not a learning position,” she said. “This is a ‘hit the ground running and get out there and start promoting and bringing businesses into the city’ (kind of position).”
One other distinction between a directorship and a manager is that with the directorship, the City Council will have to approve any candidate the mayor and his team chooses.
Doherty, whose duties increased a few years ago due to budgetary cuts, was lauded by the Council for his work in the time since, but all recognized the two positions, economic development and community development, need to be separated.
“Last year at the City Council retreat, I brought up the fact that I thought we needed an economic director in Federal Way,” said Councilmember Susan Honda. “Not because Patrick hasn’t done a good job, but because one person couldn’t do both of those jobs. And with the way the city is heading right now, I think this is very important that we have two people to do those jobs, because both are so important to our community.”
Ferrell agreed, saying Doherty’s workload has been extensive in recent years and this shift will help all involved.
“From my perspective, we’ve asked Patrick Doherty really to do three jobs,” he said. “Because he’s been managing the (Performing Arts and Conference Center project), which is a massive undertaking. He’s also managed … steps to streamline our regulatory process, to make it easier. It’s been a tremendous amount of work.”
Ferrell thanked Doherty for the work he’s taken on in recent years, mentioning successes like the U.S. Dive Trials in 2012 and a number of businesses that have decided to call Federal Way home as well.