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Federal Way hires federal lobbyist to strengthen connections with Washington, D.C.

With some hesitation, the city council hired a federal lobbyist on March 3 to represent Federal Way's needs.

Seattle-based firm Strategies360 is contracted for 18 months at a price not to exceed $105,000 plus travel and other expenses.

City council member Jim Ferrell and Mayor Jack Dovey both said they voted for the lobbyist with reluctance. Other council members said that without a lobbyist, Federal Way has little chance of securing federal funding.

The city received 12 responses to its request for proposals for a lobbyist. Staff recommended hiring Strategies360, which has offices throughout the Pacific Northwest and in Washington, D.C. The company was created in 1985 and represents about 50 clients, such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), City of Sea-Tac, City of Spokane, Stevens Hospital and Tulalip Tribes, among others.

"They rose to the top because of their Washington (state) to Washington (D.C.) connections," city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said.

Strategies360 offers its services at the state and federal level, but will only advocate on Federal Way's behalf for federal funding. The firm will not have one specific person dedicated to Federal Way, but rather will work as a team between offices in Seattle and Washington, D.C., communications director Lesley Rogers said.

Employing a lobbying firm is important because it ensures a better chance at securing federal funding, she said.

"There are lots of opportunities out there," Rogers said. "It's a complex process. There isn't much time for a learning curve, and we have staff working on these issues daily with key players."

Strategies360 employees are abreast on upcoming bills and how they could help or hinder the city in receiving money, she said.

"Having a firm with the know-how and daily expertise is a little more of a guarantee," Rogers said.

Ferrell and Dovey noted a hired representative skilled at putting Federal Way's issues in front of leaders in Washington, D.C., could be beneficial. They also said more home-based interaction with local U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-9th district) would go a long way as well.

"I'm going to vote to do this, but I really feel we are better lobbyists for our city," Dovey said.

Smith has an office in Tacoma and is bound to pay attention to the needs of the largest city in his congressional district, Ferrell said. Spending money to send someone across the nation seems unnecessary when council members can drive to Tacoma, he said.

"I have a little bit of heartburn about this," Ferrell said.

City council members Jeanne Burbidge and Dini Duclos agreed that establishing a relationship with Smith and his staff — one that mirrors the council's relationship with State Reps Mark Miloscia and Skip Priest and State Sen. Tracey Eide — is necessary. They and council member Linda Kochmar also said a lobbyist is essential.

"It's virtually impossible to get federal funds without having a lobbyist working on our behalf," Kochmar said.

The city first hired a lobbyist in 2005 and has secured about $9.1 million for its Interstate 5/Highway 161/Highway 18 interchange in Federal Way, also known as the Triangle Project, Farmer said. Federal Way chose not to renew its previous contract because it was not receiving regular feedback from that firm and, at times, was unaware of what funding was being pursued and what had been garnered, Kochmar said.

Dovey said he expects regular interaction with Strategies360 and will keep a close eye on its progress.

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