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City councilman Jim Ferrell leads campaign to change Federal Way's government

Federal Way City Council member Jim Ferrell, left, with political consultant Steve McNey. - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Federal Way City Council member Jim Ferrell, left, with political consultant Steve McNey.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Federal Way City Council member Jim Ferrell has hired a political consultant and set up an office, determined to change the city's government.

In November, voters will decide whether Federal Way should have an elected mayor instead of a city manager to conduct day-to-day business. If the measure passes, Ferrell will attempt to become Federal Way's first elected mayor.

The initiative was first rejected by about 55 percent of voters in February 2008. This year, Federal Way resident Roy Parke and his organization Accountability Comes to Town (ACT) led another signature drive to send the measure before voters again.

On Aug. 26, Ferrell opened an unmarked campaign office on Pacific Highway South, just south of 324th Street, across the road from Sparks Car Care. The single-room office was donated to ACT's campaign by Wendal Kuecker, who owns the building.

"He needed an office, I think Federal Way needs a change, so it worked," said Kuecker, a Federal Way business owner since 1969.

If elected, Ferrell would leave his current full-time job as a King County prosecutor who supervises the domestic violence court.

"This is something I really believe in," said Ferrell, who turns 43 this month. "We're going to bring true accountability to Federal Way."

Political consultant Steve McNey relocated from Lakeland, Fla., late last month to help Ferrell. McNey worked on Ferrell's failed bid for the state House in 2002 against Mark Miloscia, along with Ferrell's successful city council election in 2003 against Mary Gates. McNey has worked on campaigns for current King County Council member Reagan Dunn, and was once chairman for the 30th District Republicans.

McNey will be paid by campaign contributions to coordinate this recent effort, Ferrell said.

Federal Way's form of government currently operates under a city manager, who is hired by seven elected city council members. An elected mayor would replace the city manager and work with a seven-member city council. If the initiative passes on Nov. 3, an election for the mayoral position must be held within six months.

In 2007, when ACT started the elected mayor movement, Ferrell got behind the effort, but soon withdrew public support. He sees this present opportunity as a second chance.

"I made a mistake," he said of stepping back last year. "I didn't want it to appear self-serving. I didn't want to alienate my colleagues."

Federal Way Works is an organization that has re-grouped to maintain the city's current form of government. The group said the proposal will increase operation costs for a full-time mayor and staff. According to Federal Way Works, the proposal "moves the city backward, not forward" and leaves an elected mayor susceptible to special interests.

"Removing an ineffective elected mayor would require a costly and drawn out recall election," Federal Way Works said in an Aug. 26 letter. "A strong mayor in charge of day-to-day city operations as the city administrator could seriously impede the proper implementation of a policy or ordinance."

Ferrell said the current council-manager form of government is a "corporate structure superimposed on government."

"I think we can actually save money," he said, adding that an elected mayor has more incentive to watch over city affairs and establish an agenda that's closer to the voters. He said an elected mayor brings more responsive government and executive-driven leadership.

"You can't fire a mayor? Ask how Greg Nickels feels," said McNey, pointing to the former Seattle mayor's third-place finish in the August primary election. "Federal Way is a blank canvas. It has a ton of potential."

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