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Council tackles job details for Federal Way's elected mayor

The city council will meet Jan. 19 to discuss setting a salary for Federal Way's elected mayor position.

The council is also anticipated to pass an ordinance defining the role of the mayor and council members when the new form of government is initiated late this year. Additionally, the council may decide whether it wishes to include a chief administrative officer position. If time allows, a conversation and possibly action regarding campaign contributions will also occur.

Salaries

The council has the choice to set the salary for the mayor position itself, or let the Independent Salary Commission do so. The commission is a group of citizens who meet no later than May in even-numbered years to decide whether council members and the mayor should receive salary and benefit increases. The commission researches cities of similar size, structure and demographics when making its decisions. The commission will meet 6 p.m. Jan. 20 at City Hall; public comment will be taken.

During a Jan. 5 city council special meeting, the council reviewed salaries of mayors in four Washington cities that resemble Federal Way. Salaries ranged from $102,828 in Kent to $154,956 in Everett, according to information provided by city attorney Pat Richardson. Bellingham and Renton both pay their mayors an average of about $127,000 annually.

The council also looked at salaries of chief administrative officers, who are generally educated in municipal or public sector management. Those ranged from $121,500 in Bellingham to $159,264 in Renton. In Bellingham and Everett, the mayor is paid slightly more than a chief administrative officer. In Kent and Renton, the chief administrative officer is paid a minimum of $30,000 a year more than the mayor.

Mayor Linda Kochmar said the position is needed in Federal Way. Deputy mayor Dini Duclos agreed.

"(The city) can get in trouble very easily without somebody who knows what they're doing," Duclos said.

If the council establishes the chief administrative officer position, the city's elected mayor would choose whether to fill the position as well as who would fill it.

Duties

Before setting a salary for the elected mayor, the council must first pass an ordinance defining the duties of the position. The council began talking about the duties during the Jan. 5 meeting. But it was uncomfortable passing an ordinance that listed the duties as those found in RCW 35A.12.

Duclos said she was worried about a power-hungry mayor who would control everything that happened at City Hall. She asked city attorney Pat Richardson to draft an ordinance that would include more specific roles and duties for the mayor and council to help avoid future confusion over policy issues.

"I don't want one side of government running the whole ship," Duclos said.

Campaign contributions

The topic of campaign contributions was scheduled for a Feb. 2 discussion, but was moved up by city council members' requests.

Council member Jeanne Burbidge said candidates often begin their campaigning early, and she would like to make sure the candidates' campaigning process is transparent.

"The public simply needs to be aware of that," Burbidge said in December.

The city council could cap contributions candidates are allowed to accept, cap contributions a candidate is allowed to accept from any one particular person or entity, require the candidates to report their contributions to a body established by the council, or a combination of the above, Richardson said.

Check it out

The Jan. 19 city council special meeting is open to the public and will begin at 5:30 p.m. Public comment will not be taken at the special meeting, but may be given at the regularly scheduled council meeting that follows. That meeting begins at 7 p.m. Both sessions will take place at City Hall council chambers, 33325 8th Ave. S.

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