Homegrown talent: Plant that bell, let it ring

Federal Way is often referred to as a mobile community — a rootless suburb where residents, not wedded to the community by family or historical ties, come and go as jobs and other factors influence them.

To some extent that’s true. As a largely bedroom community, working in another city prevents some Federal Wayers from feeling attached to the place where they lay their heads at night. The high number of apartments we have also fosters a certain transience.

This mobility can confound efforts to establish community identity and involve people in community improvement efforts, a topic I’ll follow up on next week.

But a closer look at the community shows that the F-Dub is not necessarily hemorrhaging its homegrown brains and talent. There is a population of residents who grew up here and as adults are contributing to the betterment of Federal Way. These F-Dubbers bring with them not only a commitment to their town, but also a historical knowledge and a complex network of family and friends that enriches the community for the rest of us.

Here are just a few I’ve run across in the past month.

Tom Pierson: This Thomas Jefferson High School grad has had a significant impact on his hometown as the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce CEO and former legislative director for King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer. In his time at the helm of the Chamber, the whip smart Pierson has transformed the organization into a strong and effective advocate for local businesses as well as a service organization that finds ways to improve local businesses and the business climate. The Chamber’s sophisticated approach to community politics, and its recognition that healthy businesses depend on and should support overall quality of life, owes much to its CEO’s roots here.

Wade Webber: Another Raider enhancing the community in a completely different way than the previous one. The former Thomas Jefferson soccer star returned to Federal Way after his pro soccer career to teach history at his alma mater. According to a reliable source, he not only is a great history teacher, but he can make history interesting, “even during first period.”

Last year he took the reins of the girls’ soccer program with the goal of getting the team back to its glory days of the late 1980s, when the girls won a state championship. No doubt, it won’t hurt to have a coach who was there when the girls won it all and won a few trophies himself as a player. (Conflict of interest statement: Webber coaches two of my daughters. Even larger conflict of interest: Like me, he is a diehard Arsenal fan)

Darryl Pittman: Finally, a Gator! The Metropolitan Market manager was a Decatur High grad, a few years behind me in the early 1980s. A few years back, Pittman opened The Met, easily Federal Way’s classiest grocery store. Retail is important to image, and having a Met Market here is a boon to the F-Dub. Darryl has also made sure that the store invests in the community, supporting causes like FUSION and the Friends of the Hylebos Ruby Dance awards dinner.

Jack Dovey: I won’t say too much about our mayor, as I’ve mentioned him in a couple of recent columns. But he’s a fellow Decatur Gator, so I must have him on my list. Dovey has been a successful businessman, with Bluewater Wireless, as well as a longtime public servant on the city council. Behind the scenes, you’ll also find Jack and his wife, Jennifer, supporting countless community causes.

Tim Hickel: In 1976, Tim was a member of Federal Way High School’s great football team that was a runner-up in the state championship. For two decades, (pun alert) he has been a top local legal eagle, a popular attorney in the law firm he founded with fellow Eagle Gaylen Payne. He also represented the Federal Way area as a state representative in the early 1990s. Also to his credit, Tim married the talented and likable Teri, who is executive director of Advancing Leadership and well known through her years of volunteer work on behalf Federal Way Public Schools.

These are just a handful of homegrown F-Dubbers helping to build our community as businesspeople, volunteers and elected officials, but there are many more. I believe that Federal Way is developing a stronger sense of community identity, and more kids that grow up here will find reasons to stay. Like the folks on this list, they will help make Federal Way an even stronger community.

Chris Carrel is a lifelong Federal Way resident and executive director of the Friends of the Hylebos, a nonprofit conservation organization working to preserve and restore Hylebos Creek and the West Hylebos Wetlands. Contact: chinook@hylebos.org.

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