Editor’s Note: Read about the candidates in the Federal Way mayoral primary race in the July 7 edition of the Mirror, or check out the story early by reading it online at www.federalwaymirror.com Monday.
With the Aug. 1 primary election approaching, the four candidates seeking to replace Councilwoman Jeanne Burbidge on the City Council, Sharry Edwards, Diana Noble-Gulliford, Jack Stanford and Hoang Tran, are kicking their campaigns in high gear.
Residents will have an opportunity to meet with the candidates and ask them questions at a candidate forum hosted by the Federal Way Mirror from 6-8 p.m. July 12 at the Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club.
Of all the candidates running for Position 4, Noble-Gulliford is the only one with prior council experience. She and former Councilwoman Kelly Maloney were appointed to serve out the remaining terms for Linda Kochmar and Roger Freeman, who were elected to the House of Representatives in 2013. She ran for re-election but was unseated by current Councilman Martin Moore. Noble-Gulliford was also a part of the Community Council before Federal Way’s incorporation and has served on the city’s Planning Commission from 1990-96 and 2014 through the present. She is also a past and sitting president of the Historical Society of Federal Way.
“I feel I’ve got good qualifications to contribute to solutions and goals for Federal Way’s future, ” she said.
Noble-Gulliford said one of her priorities would be public safety and ensuring the city has the tools to proactively address crime. This includes consistently funding a full complement of police officers instead of relying on grants and promoting communication between neighborhoods and the police department.
“To be able to transition into something that’s more consistent, instead of on a case-by-case basis, would offer more value to the city and to residents,” she said.
Noble-Gulliford said she also would like to see good jobs coming to Federal Way through a “very focused economic development plan.”
While the city does have a plan, she said it should more specifically outline the types of industries that will benefit Federal Way and help carry the city into the future. She said land-use planning and zoning is also very important.
Noble-Gulliford said she believes her previous experience has given her a strong understanding of the city’s issues and city government.
“I’m not doing this to run for a higher office, and I’m retired, and I have the time to devote to digging into the weeds, so to speak, to do more research and get a clearer and more defined understanding of issues,” she said.
Stanford has lived in the city since the mid-1970s, and while he has never pursued an elected office before, he has been active behind the scenes since before Federal Way’s incorporation. Stanford, who owns an insurance company, said he was on the committee that spearheaded the city’s incorporation. Now, he would like to bring a stronger business perspective to the council, which he said has been absent lately.
“I’m pretty much an issue-driven person, and I will look at things rationally and put a lot of thought into them, and if it looks like it will work, then I will move ahead,” Stanford said.
By working as the insurance broker for a number of businesses and agencies throughout the years – including the fire district and Lakehaven Water and Sewer District — he said he is acquainted with many of the issues and challenges the community faces regarding public safety, utilities and fire protection. He currently sits on the FUSION advisory council, is a Federal Way Human Services commissioner, is on the Safe Cities Board, is a past commissioner for South King Fire &Rescue, former president of Federal Way Rotary, a former Communities In Schools board member and a youth mentor.
Stanford said the city’s role is to establish policy that best serves the residents and also to be a leader in community initiatives.
He said that even when funding isn’t possible, city officials always need to help provide direction in community campaigns; assist people and businesses trying to succeed in town by removing barriers or challenges facing them, such as through rezoning and permitting; and, in general, be part of a movement.
Stanford also believes the city can improve public safety and human services by forming partnerships and alliances with nonprofits and other agencies and groups.
Stanford said he is particularly concerned about homelessness and social service funding, and he would like to see more groups partnering together to come up with working solutions, particularly regarding a shelter. He said did not support breaking up homeless encampments because it did nothing to improve the overall situation.
“We can’t just keep looking away, and I think we’re doing a lot of that right now,” he said.
Stanford said he has the connections and community knowledge to help bring together different groups and start discussions to work toward a more inclusive approach.
“It’s time to put politics aside and come together to find lasting solutions,” Stanford said.
Forced to flee Vietnam at age 19 with his younger sister, Tran came to this country 37 years ago and pledged that he would someday repay the country that welcomed him and his sister with open arms. He started that mission with his career: He has worked with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services for 26 years, including the past six managing the DSHS office in Federal Way.
His top four priorities for the city are public safety, economic development, homelessness and fiscal accountability. Tran said he believes he is well qualified to serve on the City Council. He said he currently manages an office of 35-36 employees. He is also adept at responding to budget cuts and making do with the funds available. He said for public safety, he wants to ensure police officers have the necessary tools to do their jobs, such as training, especially responding to people with mental health issues.
He would also like the city to do all it can to attract and retain businesses, which includes creating a safe environment for business owners each day.
“So it really comes down to public safety,” Tran said.
Tran said that by working with homeless people daily, he knows what they need. He also has personal knowledge of being homeless.
When he left Vietnam, he and his sister went to a refugee camp in Malaysia and lived with 50,000 people on a 1-square mile island that had no running water or electricity as well as limited food provisions. When they arrived, Tran said they were given just a few necessities to build a hut, where he and his sister lived for nine months.
“I was homeless,” Tran said.
He said the city took a positive step by supporting the day center’s opening in Federal Way, “but I think we need to do more than that.”
Fiscal responsibility and accountability is also a focus for Tran. With his job, he said he is the guardian of public funds and making sure money is spent correctly and on the right people is of utmost importance.
He said it is possible for the city to be proactive on homelessness and public safety while still living within its means by working with the community to build public and private partnerships to create and support various services.
As a longtime union delegate and labor leader for the Service Employees International Union District 1199, Edwards first considered running for public office at the suggestion of a colleague. She initially intended to run for state representative, but stepped aside when Kristine Reeves entered the race. She has since focused on serving in the city.
“I love this city, I love the people and I love the politics,” Edwards, a nurse, said. “I really want to serve on a higher level.”
As a co-chair of the Homeless Mothers and Children’s Initiative in Federal Way and her previous work with homeless issues, Edwards said that continues to be a top priority. She would like to see a shelter for at least women and children in place before next winter.
Public safety is also a huge concern for Edwards, who wants the city to ensure funds to employ all the officers that are needed.
In the city’s economic development efforts, she wants an emphasis placed on supporting small businesses in town. As a former business owner with her husband, who works in construction, Edwards said she knows how difficult it is for small businesses to stay afloat. She said the city needs to support them with its policies as much as possible.
“I’d like to see the small guys make it,” said Edwards, adding that fewer empty storefronts would go a long way in revitalizing certain areas in the city.
She also thinks forming a stronger partnership working with the Chamber of Commerce would be a good, easy place to start in that effort.
Edwards promises to carry her passion, commitment and stamina with her to the City Council if elected.
“All the hard work you’ve seen in the community from me, you’ll see on the council,” she said.
Edwards also said the results of this election will not deter her from her over-arching goal to serve people and her community as a public official.
“If I don’t win this race, I’ll turn around and run again,” she said.