Opinion

New Federal Way Council will learn, make mistakes | Roegner

Bob Roegner - Contributed
Bob Roegner
— image credit: Contributed

“We need a new city council,” stated a handful of disgruntled voters four years ago.

They wanted the Federal Way Council to adopt term limits as they felt throwing out the council by limiting their time in office was the only way they could get the council they wanted. Term limits weren’t necessary as time and politics have stepped in to change five of the seven council members in a few short years and give those voters what they wanted - a new city council.

But the city council that meets next month will be one of the most inexperienced councils since incorporation. And we don’t know how they will work together and what they might accomplish.

But what a difference! Previously, the council had Linda Kochmar who was elected in 1998 and served 14 years. She left the council when she was elected to the state Legislature, where she is completing her first year. Roger Freeman was the “new guy” on the council when he was elected in 2010, but he also left earlier this year when he was elected to the Legislature.

Their appointed replacements were Diana Noble-Gulliford and Kelly Maloney. Neither had served in elected office before. Maloney was elected to her own term this past November, while Noble-Gulliford lost to Martin Moore. Moore has no previous elected experience.

Mike Park was appointed in 1995 and had served for more than 16 years when he left the council. Jack Dovey was off and on the council twice and served for 16 years before losing to Bob Celski.

Current Councilmember Dini Duclos started her council service in 2008 and at six years will rank second in seniority come January. Jeanne Burbidge will be the senior member of the council as she was just elected to her fifth term on the council.

Councilmembers Susan Honda and Celski have each served two years. Jim Ferrell has been on the council for 10 years. But he will resign to become mayor and will be replaced by a vote of the council. We don’t yet know who will replace Ferrell, but of the leading contenders none has any elected experience.

Some of the newer council members have served on city boards or commissions, and of course have gotten elected saying they are ready to serve. And while it is true each brings skills, passion and commitment to making the city a better place, the reality is they are not yet very knowledgable about how a city actually works.

They will learn, but they will also make mistakes. Most seasoned council members will tell you it takes two years just to understand the jargon, breadth of responsibilities and legal requirements. And that it takes four years to really be able to grasp the city budget and function as a fully knowledgeable council member.

The council of four years ago had more than seven decades of combined experience. Council debates were impressive in their depth and knowledge. If you delete Burbidge’s 16 years, the new council will have about 11 years of combined experience, Duclos with six, Celski and Honda with two, Maloney with one and Moore and the new member with none. That’s an average of 10 years, versus two years of experience.

But while experience is truly important, relationships often can be even more important. On the most recent council, Ferrell, Honda, Maloney and Noble-Gulliford formed a loose block with Burbidge, Duclos and Celski on the other side.

We just saw a significant political move regarding a vote on the Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC) that also revealed a potential new voting block of Burbidge, Duclos, Celski and Moore.

It will be interesting to watch the relationships develop and change or solidify. Democrat Moore becomes a potential swing vote.

And those voters who wanted to throw everyone out? They have an inexperienced city council being led by people they wanted to get rid of, initially acting in a political manner.

Will this council learn and rise to the level of statesmanship? Or will we say to those unhappy voters, "Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it."

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!

Contact Federal Way resident and former mayor of Auburn Bob Roegner at bjroegner@comcast.net.


 

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