Federal Way's mayor candidates in their own words | Skip Priest

Skip Priest is a candidate for Federal Way
Skip Priest is a candidate for Federal Way's first elected mayor.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Mirror is providing an opportunity for Federal Way mayor candidates to speak to readers in their own words.


QUESTION: What is your first goal upon taking office, if elected mayor of Federal Way, and how do you plan to achieve that goal?

My first priority will be to get the city's economic house in order. Federal Way's budget model is broken and the city's current $4.4 million shortfall is only the beginning of our financial challenges. In addition, current ballot measures may also significantly impact our city's resources. As such, my first goal will be to develop a short- and long-term sustainable budget strategy for our city.

This will require two immediate steps. First, we must implement a "priorities of government" approach to city spending, much different than the traditional government approach to budgeting.  Working together, the Federal Way City Council, staff and mayor must identify citizen priorities and develop clear outcomes to ensure that limited dollars are spent wisely. After visiting thousands of homes the last five months, I believe the citizens want our city to remain one of the safest in King County, so I will ensure that the budget funds enough officers to achieve that level of public safety.

Second, we must quickly act to improve Federal Way's economy and create jobs for our residents. Neither increasing taxes on our struggling small businesses and homeowners nor cutting essential services can provide the long-term answer. As mayor, I will aggressively pursue economic development opportunities using my many existing relationships with local and regional business leaders. I will also ensure that there is a "business friendly" City Hall environment to help both new and existing businesses be successful.

Fast facts: Priest served on the Federal Way City Council from 1991 to 1997, including two years as an appointed mayor under the city's current council-manager form of government. Priest was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2002. He will forgo re-election to the Legislature in order to run for mayor of Federal Way.

Website: www.skippriest.com

More about Skip Priest

Age: 60

Alma Mater: Brewster High School, Brewster, Wash.; Willamette University, B.A. in political science; National Law Center at George Washington University, J.D. with Honors.

Family: Married to Trisha Bennett with son Zachary and daughter Amanda. Both are graduates of Thomas Jefferson High School.

Favorite book: Winston Churchill's six-volume memoir about World War II. It provides a wonderful example of how leaders must not only be able to talk the talk (and how Winston Churchill could speak!) but also have the experience and skills to make difficult day-to-day decisions — decisions that often don't make the newspapers, but are just as critical to a nation's success or failure at times of great stress.

Who's your hero?

My parents. I was raised on a wheat and cattle ranch in Brewster, Wash. My dad was a tough rancher who had a tremendous work ethic and taught me the importance of personal integrity. His favorite saying (at least that's printable in a newspaper) was: "You don't need to put it in writing if you shake somebody's hand." My mother was a New York University graduate who, much to her surprise, ended up in Brewster. She taught me the importance of literature and the arts, and helped introduce me to a world outside our small Eastern Washington community. Today, she lives here in Federal Way in an assisted living facility and still plays an important role in my life.

Where did you grow up, and what brought you to Federal Way?

After leaving Brewster for college in 1968, I moved for education and work-related reasons to Salem, Ore., to Washington, D.C., to New York City and then Seattle. These included serving as an executive at American Express Company in New York and at Glacier Park Co. (a subsidiary of Burlington Northern) in Seattle. I came to Federal Way in 1984 to start my own business — the "Y" Pay Mor Cleaners. Trish and I moved to our house in English Gardens near the Aquatic Center in 1990, where we live today.

What attracted you to public service?

My commitment to public service can best be explained by Bellevue businessman Phil Smart's speech called "The Third Eight." I first met Mr. Smart when he spoke to our Chamber's Advancing Leadership class nine years ago. His question, "Eight hours you sleep, eight hours you work. What do you do with the other eight hours?" His personal answer: 40 years of volunteer work at Children's Hospital. He provides a powerful message about how helping others improves our community and makes life more fulfilling. His speech convinced me to run for the Legislature and inspires me to run for mayor today.

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