Opinion

The hunt begins for city council replacements | Roegner

The election is over. Federal Way City Councilmembers Linda Kochmar and Roger Freeman are preparing to join the state Legislature and vacate their council seats.

As a result, the hottest game in town is the maneuvering to see who will be selected to replace them. Whoever is appointed will have to stand for election next year along with the position currently held by Councilmember Jeannie Burbidge.

Mayor Skip Priest is also up for election next year and has a big interest in who is appointed to the council. Interviews are likely in early January.

At one point after the election, it appeared there might only be one council vacancy, as Freeman considered retaining his council position in addition to his new legislative duties. He has apparently reconsidered that option and will leave the council.

The maneuvering for council positions actually began many months ago when Kochmar and Freeman announced their interest in the Legislature.

At that time, there were also rumors that Burbidge might not run. Burbidge isn’t commenting, but it looks like she may run again.

If you want to be on the council, you either have to get one of the appointments, or run for one of the three seats next year.

While the process is still unfolding, there is significant speculation. Names being mentioned as possible applicants include local businessmen Mark Walsh, who ran several years ago, and Jack Stanford, who is also active in several community groups. Other possibilities include Hope Elder, a former city council member who lost to current Councilmember Dini Duclos in 2007 in an effort to return to the council; former council candidate Mark Koppang, who is chair of the 30th District Republicans; School Board President Tony Moore; former school board candidate Ron Walker; Planning Commissioner Diana Noble-Gulliford; Kelly Maloney, who works for Orion Industries; and Keith Livingston, who is on the Arts Commission. Moore and Noble-Gulliford, like Koppang, are Republicans. Elder is a Democrat.

However, there are several moving parts. The ingredients in the stew of decision-making include power (who has it and who wants it), along with community, ethnicity, gender and political representation.

Despite no significant policy differences, the current city council has been politically split with Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell and Councilmembers Susan Honda, Bob Celski and Freeman in one corner, and Councilmembers Duclos, Burbidge and Kochmar in the other. The differences are fluid and relate more to personal relationships and alliances.

Ferrell is deputy mayor and would like to stay in that position a second year, which has been a tradition. That was threatened by the minority of the council at their retreat last January. Ferrell will want someone who will support him and that he can work with. But he has other complications. He switched from Republican to Democrat earlier this year, and the Democrats are likely to support at least one candidate for appointment. Ferrell endorsed Freeman for the Legislature, but not Roger Flygare, who was the other Democrat running. Ferrell still needs to earn the confidence of some of the rank-and-file Democrats. Supporting a Republican for the council may prove awkward for him if he has future political plans, although the council is non-partisan.

Honda has supported Ferrell, but she was supported by Kochmar in her council bid and returned that favor by supporting Kochmar for the Legislature. She leans Democratic, but is more independent. She may want a woman on the council to replace the departing Kochmar. Celski is a Republican and defeated Jack Dovey to join the council, and Dovey was supported by Priest.

Freeman is a Democrat, and is said to favor an African-American such as Moore or Walker as his replacement. Duclos isn’t likely to want another Ferrell supporter on the council and has been an ally of Priest, as has Burbidge. Both Duclos and Burbidge may also favor a woman in deference to Kochmar.

Since Kochmar and Freeman can’t vote on the person who would replace their respective positions, it would appear the remaining council is split 3-2 — and you need four votes. Some council members will want someone who is friendly to the mayor, but that does not appear to be the majority opinion. Also, are any of the council members thinking of running for mayor? And would that affect their vote?

Speculation regarding Ferrell’s future hasn’t stopped since he lost the mayor’s race two years ago. Could he be thinking of running again?

Let’s add an interesting twist regarding that 3-2 split I mentioned. There are at least two possible ways to get to four votes, in addition to compromise.

A vacancy doesn’t exist until Kochmar and Freeman resign. What happens if Kochmar resigns, but Freeman stays on the council long enough to vote for a candidate to replace her? That would secure Ferrell’s position. Then Freeman could resign, having made a strong “suggestion” on who he wanted to replace him.

The other possibility is that the council votes to appoint someone to Kochmar’s position, and after that person is sworn in, they join the council and vote on Freeman’s position. Awkward? Yes, since they wouldn’t have been a council member and participated in the council discussion regarding the other candidates.

Could that actually happen? Could there be vote trading? Could there be sidebar discussions? The goal is to seat two new members of the council and it may not be pretty.

But it’s politics — anything could happen.


 

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